PM Modi Hosts Private Dinner For "Friend" Benjamin Netanyahu: 10 Points
Israel and India will announce deals and joint investments in areas ranging from defence to renewable energy, Gilad Cohen, deputy director-general in charge of Asia at Israel's Foreign Ministry, said in a briefing on Wednesday.
Benjamin Netanyahu's visit comes days after India voted against Israel at the UN on the Jerusalem issue
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who broke protocol to receive his "friend" Benjamin Netanyahu at the airport in Delhi on Sunday, ended the day by hosting a private dinner for him. Mr Netanyahu, the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India in more than a decade, had landed in Delhi with wife Sara Netanyahu and a 130-member business delegation. Mr Netanyahu is in India on a six-day visit, during which the two nations hope to deepen ties in trade and defence. The Israeli PM is also expected to visit Mumbai, and PM Modi's home state Gujarat, where the two leaders will hold a joint road show on Wednesday.
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At the airport, PM Modi hugged and shook hands with Mr Netanyahu, with whom he had developed a warm rapport during his visit to Israel last year. He also tweeted a photo of their meeting with a message: "Welcome to India, my friend PM @netanyahu! Your visit to India is historic and special. It will further cement the close friendship between our nations."
From the airport, the two leaders went to Teen Murti Memorial to pay homage to soldiers who died in Haifa of World War 1. The ceremony marked the formal renaming of Teen Murti Chowk as the Teen Murti Haifa Chowk, after the battle fought by Indian soldiers at the port city, which is now in Israel.
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, who also met Mr Netanyahu, later tweeted: "I called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Warm and engaging conversation on various aspects of our bilateral ties aimed at strengthening our strategic partnership."
Today, Mr Netanyahu will call on President Ram Nath Kovind and hold bilateral meetings with PM Modi. On Tuesday, he will visit the Taj Mahal in Agra and then attend the "Raisina Dialogue" - a three-day annual geo-political conference. One of the stops of the Israeli leader on this visit will be in Mumbai, where he is expected to meet with Bollywood stars.
Mr Netanyahu's visit -- the first by an Israeli premier since Ariel Sharon in 2003 -- is seen as an effort to build on the decision to elevate ties between the two nations to a "strategic partnership". Israel needs large markets for its export-driven economy and has been working towards deepening ties with India and China.
New Delhi and Tel Aviv are expected to sign a number of deals that would cover various sectors, including defence, oil and gas, renewable energy, amended protocol for airports, cyber security, and co-production of films and documentaries.
Before taking off for New Delhi, Mr Netanyahu had said, "We are strengthening ties between Israel and this important global power. This serves our security, economic, trade and tourism interests, as well as many other areas. This is a great blessing for the state of Israel." He also called PM Modi a "close friend of Israel and of mine".
Mr Netanyahu's 130-member delegation will include the head of the Rafael Advanced Defence Systems, which lost the $500 million deal to purchase Spike anti-tank guided missiles in November. The army and the government are discussing ways to revive the order, Army chief Bipin Rawat has said. India is one of Israel's biggest arms market, buying around $1 billion worth of weapons every year.
Ahead of the visit, Mr Netanyahu said India's vote at UN against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital, won't hurt the ties between the two nations. Last year, 128 nations had voted against the US move. The status of Jerusalem is one of the biggest obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
Over the last two years, India has slowly moved towards de-hyphenating Israel and Palestine, towards which the country had a definite slant in the past. PM Modi's visit to Israel last year was a first by an Indian Prime Minister. Mr Netanyahu had received him at the airport and spent the next three days at his side. Their bromance was seen to be carefully choreographed, complete with shots of bear hugs and them walking barefoot together through the Mediterranean surf.