U.S. India , Israel celebrate democracy at GW

American, Israeli and Indian officials gathered at the “Celebrating Democracy” symposium Monday night to discuss the relationship between the oldest democracy, largest democracy and only democracy in the Middle East.

Though the trio of countries participating may seem an unusual lineup, organizers said the Indian-Israeli partnership makes perfect sense.

“They have a lot of similarities with one another,” said Dan Conston, a Student Alliance For Israel officer who helped planned the event with the Indian Student Association. “All three are democracies, all are battling international terrorism and all are leaders in the technological world.”

He also said a relationship with India makes sense for Israel because both countries’ citizens frequently visit each other. He also said Indians are comfortable with Israel and Jews.

“I was (in Israel) in June, and there’s a huge amount of Indian people there,” Conston said. “And after their (Israeli Defense Forces) service, a lot of people in the Israeli Army spend time in India.”

Rep. Joe Wilson (R- S.C.), one of the event’s speakers, said he had firsthand experience working with Israeli and Indian immigrants. He said that his state has one of the highest populations of Indian nationals. The Republican lawmaker justified the war with Iraq by saying it would help protect the safety of residents in all three countries.

“No country will benefit more from democracy in Iraq than Israel, India and the United States,” Wilson said. He also said that eventually “India will replace China” in its scope of business relations with the United States.? Aviva Raz-Shechter, minister counselor for the Embassy of Israel, expressed her support for her country’s government. She said Israel is lucky to be in the “right club” of democratic nations. She also pointed out cultural ties between the two countries, noting that the Indian cuisine has made its way into the Middle Eastern country. ? A packed audience at the Jack Morton Auditorium laughed as Vikram Misri, minister of political Affairs for India, started off his speech with a hardy “Shalom.” He described India as a “melting pot” similar to the U.S. because of the multitude of ethnic groups that have assimilated into its society.

Misri also expressed his appreciation of Israelis, who he described as “hardworking, dedicated people.”

“When something affects Jerusalem, it affects New York … and New Delhi,” he said.? Sanjay Puri, executive director of the U.S.-India Political Action Committee, encouraged students to start a chapter of the group at GW, his alma matter. He said that it is important for people to understand the significance of the countries’ bonds.

“U.S.-India relations are important, and it is essential that people know about that,” he said.? SAFI officers said they hope to organize a cultural event with the Indian Student Association in the future and hope to hold a symposium discussing Israel’s relationship with Turkey.

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