Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in New York on Sunday — the first time the heads of the two countries have met in 11 years.
Between discussions on issues ranging from Iran and ISIS to West Asia, Israel invited India to be part of its national cyber defence authority, a dedicated force to fight cyber threats and a pet project of Netanyahu.
India, too, is keen on building a strong cyber defence system with countries across the world, including the US and UK. Modi is expected to bring this up with US President Barack Obama too as they talk, among other things, of homeland security and terrorism.
Israel’s cyber defence authority, launched a week ago, is envisaged as a link between civilian and military authorities in this field. It works alongside the cyber bureau in the Israeli PMO, covering threats both in terms of national security, economic activity and data of private individuals. “Cyber security is an area of great focus for Israel. They are futuristic in their approach,” said an Indian official.
Israel being one of India’s largest arms suppliers, talks also veered towards defence and technology cooperation. The Indian side brought up the expansion of trade relations, which has grown rapidly to $6 billion in recent years. External affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said another point of discussion was “agriculture and water management because Israel is an expert on agriculture in arid areas”.
For the 64-year-old Netanyahu, the meeting with Modi, also 64, was his first bilateral on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. He told Modi “the sky is the limit” for ties between their countries. To which, according to the Israeli PM’s office, Modi replied, “I agree with you that India-Israel relations are historical”.
The statement said Netanyahu had “raised the issue of the danger of a nuclear-armed Iran as well as the global threat posed by Islamic terrorism”. Asked if there was any discussion on ISIS, Akbaruddin said, “Given that Israel is well placed in that region, the PM requested and was given a briefing of their understanding of the situation.”
Modi also made a pitch for cooperation on urban development. “There are approximately 500 cities in India where water management would be a major issue, given the growth in these cities. There was a fairly detailed discussion on the possibilities of cooperation in water management as well as solid waste management,” the Indian side said.
The session culminated in an invitation to Israel for Modi, who visited the country many years ago as Gujarat chief minister. No Indian PM has visited Israel yet while Ariel Sharon’s 2003 trip to India was the last by an Israeli PM.
PM Modi, on his part, said everyone appreciated the fact that “there is a deep recognition in Israel that India is the only country where anti-semitism has never been allowed to come up, where Jews have never suffered but have lived as an integral part of our society”.