Jerusalem, October 17: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Sunday began his five-day visit to Israel by laying wreath at a cemetery for Indian soldiers who laid down their lives in the region during the World War I in Talpiot, Jerusalem.
About 900 Indian soldiers are interred in cemeteries across Israel in Jerusalem, Ramle and Haifa.
Mr Jaishankar, who arrived in Jerusalem earlier in the day on his first visit to the country as the External Affairs Minister, laid wreath at the Talpiot Cemetery.
“Visited the Indian Cemetery at Talpiot as my first engagement in Jerusalem. Paid homage to the brave Indian soldiers who made the supreme sacrifie during World War I,” he tweeted.
“I am deeply honoured to pay homage to the valiant sons of India who fought with bravery and courage in this land during WWI, bringing glory to themselves, their comrades and their motherland,” Mr Jaishankar wrote in the visitors book.
“The valour and supreme sacrifice of these bravehearts will forever remain etched in the heart of our nation. Your heroism and selfless service in an inspiration and beacon of light that will forever guide us in the service of our country. I wish to thank you & Commonwealth War Graves Commission for maintaining these memorials for Indian soldiers in Israel,” he wrote.
The heroics of the Indian soldiers have prominently come to light here during the past two decades and the story of liberation of the northern coastal city of Haifa, in what most war historians consider “the last great cavalry campaign in history”, has become a household tale with its inclusion in the city’s local history textbooks.
“MEA @DrSJaishankar at Talpiot Cemetery. Paying respect to Indian soldiers who died in WWI while fighting as part of the British Army for liberating what later became #Israel. Another important element connecting India and Israel,” Israel’s ambassador to India Naor Gilon said in a tweet.
The Indian Army commemorates September 23 every year as Haifa Day to pay its respects to the three brave Indian Cavalry Regiments – Mysore, Hyderabad and Jodhpur Lancers – that helped liberate Haifa following a dashing cavalry action by the 15th Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade.
Captain Aman Singh Bahadur and Dafadar Jor Singh were awarded the Indian Order of Merit (IOM) and Captain Anop Singh and Second Lieutenant Sagat Singh were awarded the Military Cross (MC) as recognition for their bravery in this battle.
Major Dalpat Singh, widely known as the Hero of Haifa, was awarded a military cross for his bravery.
Indian cavalry regiments armed with spears and swords had displayed the highest tradition of valour and cleared the enemy from the rocky slopes of Mount Carmel.
In a symbolic gesture of friendship with Israel, India renamed the iconic Teen Murti Chowk, a war memorial, during the visit of then Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Delhi in January 2018 to Teen Murti Haifa Chowk.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Haifa cemetery during his visit to Israel in July 2017 and unveiled a plaque commemorating Major Dalpat Singh for his critical role in the liberation of the city.
The 61st Cavalry, the name given to the unit created after the merger of cavalry units after independence, sent a contingent to Israel in 2018 to participate in the centenary celebrations.
The Israel Post had issued a commemorative stamp in 2018 in appreciation of Indian soldiers’ role in liberating the city.
During his visit, Mr Jaishankar would call on President Isaac Herzog, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid during his standalone visit.
He will also be holding talks with leading academics from all over Israel, business community leaders and interacting with the Indian Jewish community.
Mr Jaishankar will also be visiting places of historical significance to India, demonstrating its long-term presence in the region and constructive role played in shaping the history of the region. (PTI)