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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s first India visit aims to deepen trade ties

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, on his first visit to India, is only the second Israeli leader to visit the country after Ariel Sharon in 2003.

india Updated: Jan 15, 2018 07:24 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Benjamin Netanyahu,Israeli PM,Netanyahu visit to India
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in New Delhi on Sunday.(PTI)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in New Delhi on Sunday on his first visit to India to deepen defence, economic and cultural ties between the two countries that established diplomatic ties barely 25 years ago.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke protocol to receive Netanyahu, only the second Israeli leader to visit India after Ariel Sharon in 2003, at the Palam airport where the two leaders shared a warm embrace.

“Indian Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi is a close friend of Israel and of mine and I appreciate the fact that he will accompany me on extensive parts of my visit,” Netanyahu said before leaving for New Delhi. “We are strengthening ties between Israel and this important global power.”

Modi, who made history in July when he became the first Indian PM to visit Israel, would accompany Netanyahu for most part of his tour that will also take him to Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Agra.

Netanyahu had done the same for Modi in July.

“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,” Modi tweeted in English and Hebrew.

Israel is to invest $68.6 million in areas such as tourism, technology, agriculture and innovation over a period of four years, a senior Israeli official had said ahead of the visit.

From the airport, Modi and Netanyahu headed straight to the Teen Murti Chowk in central Delhi for a ceremony to rename the war memorial as Teen Murti-Haifa Chowk.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu attend a ceremony at the Teen Murti Memorial in New Delhi to mark the formal renaming of the Teen Murti Chowk as Teen Murti Haifa Chowk on Sunday. (PTI)

The three bronze statues at Teen Murti represent the Hyderabad, Jodhpur and Mysore Lancers who were part of the 15 Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade that liberated the Israeli city of Haifa on September 23, 1918 during World War 1.

The renaming underscored the special link and the common history between Israel and India, Netanyahu said after the event, according to Israeli officials.

Israel is one of India’s biggest weapons suppliers, exporting an average of $1 billion of military equipment each year.

But days before Netanyahu’s arrival, India called off a deal to buy 8,000 anti-tank guided missiles from Israel’s state-owned defence contractor Rafael.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomes Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara Netanyahu on their arrival at the Palam airport in New Delhi on Sunday. (Arvind Yadav/HT PHOTO)

In December, New Delhi had voted in favour of a UN resolution denouncing US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

“The relationship is an all-weather relationship... so strong and so important to both countries that our feeling is that nothing can reverse it,” Israeli ambassador to India Daniel Carmon had said on Friday on being asked about the vote.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj called on Netanyahu in the evening while Modi hosted him for a private dinner.

First Published: Jan 14, 2018 22:54 IST