Describing India as the "greatest democracy on earth", Israel has said it wants New Delhi to become a permanent member of the expanded United Nations Security Council.

Welcoming external affairs minister S M Krishna, the first Indian foreign minister to arrive in Israel in over a decade, President Shimon Peres said Tel Aviv was following New Delhi with "great care and interest".

"For us India is first of all a culture. Then it is for us the greatest democracy on earth and then the unbelievable achievement of overcoming poverty without becoming poor in freedom," he said last night. "I wish that India would become a permanent member of the Security Council," Peres said, backing India's bid to become a permanent member of the UN's top body. In his address, Peres said, "India was fortunate that it had two great and unforgettable leaders. The combination of Gandhi and Nehru is the most unusual." Peres, who has visited India twice since diplomatic ties between the two countries was set 20 years ago, said: "We are following India with great care and interest.”