PM Modi seeks closer anti-terror ties in historic visit to Israel
Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a newspaper, Israel Hayom, in an interview that his three-day visit, starting on Tuesday, had “its own significance as this is the first time ever that an Indian PM is visiting Israel” and would strengthen ties between the two countries.india Updated: Jul 04, 2017 00:13 IST
Narendra Modi, who becomes the first Indian prime minister to embark on a bilateral visit to Israel, has said that New Delhi and Tel Aviv need to cooperate more closely in battling the “global menace” of terrorism.
Modi told newspaper Israel Hayom in an interview that his three-day visit, starting on Tuesday, had “its own significance as this is the first time ever that an Indian PM is visiting Israel” and would strengthen ties between the two countries.
“India and Israel are not immune to it (terrorism). We are in full agreement that elements which perpetrate violence on innocent people should not be allowed to flourish,” the Prime Minister said.
Underlining the need for cooperation in combating terror, he said: “These troublemakers often misuse religion as a tool to misguide youth in our country and our regions. Terrorism should not be equated with any particular religion.”
Modi is expected to meet ‘Baby Moshe’, who survived the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks though his parents, Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, were killed in the Chabad House in Colaba. Moshe is now 11.
India and Israel established full-fledged diplomatic ties 25 years ago and Modi is expected to lay the future road map.
“No Indian president or prime minister had visited Israel before our president (Pranab Mukherjee) visited in 2015... My forthcoming visit reminds us of the deep and centuries old connect between our societies,” Modi said. Historically, India has walked a tightrope in the region, seeking to balance relations between Arab states and Palestine in keeping with its long-held non-aligned foreign policy.
It has also been a political signal for the large Muslim minority back home. But over the years, India has quietly bolstered its relations with Tel Aviv.
Modi’s visit will only formally de-hyphenate India’s ties with Israel and Palestine. Modi will not travel to Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian authority and a customary stop for visiting leaders trying to maintain a balance in political ties.
Modi hosted Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas earlier this year but that hardly compares with the scale of collaboration with Israel.
India is one of the world’s biggest importers of defence equipment, and Israel has become one of its major suppliers along with Russia and the US. Israeli media have reported that the two countries see more than $1 billion in defence deals each year.
India is expected to stick to its traditional position on the Palestine conflict with Modi reiterating that the country is committed to a “two-state solution” in which both Israel and a future Palestinian state can coexist peacefully.
On the eve of Modi’s visit, the two countries promised to intensify cooperation in a host of areas with special focus on counter-terrorism, water, agriculture, space and economy.
The Israeli ministry of foreign affairs on Monday dubbed the visit as one with “huge symbolic significance” with “concrete ramifications” in several fields.