Within hours of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu landing at the airport, where he was received by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the visiting leader called him “my good friend” and said that they would together bring relations between the two countries to “new heights”.
In bilateral talks to be held on Monday, the two leaders are expected to discuss defence, security and innovation, apart from agriculture and water technology cooperation. Sources told The Indian Express that the two sides are likely to sign several pacts in the areas of oil and gas, renewable energy, amended protocol for airports, cyber-security, and co-production of films and documentaries, among others.
The Union Health Ministry will also sign an agreement with Israel’s Saare Tzedek hospital on homoeopathy and Ayurveda. The Science and Technology Ministry will also sign a pact with Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. Netanyahu is leading a high-profile delegation of 130 businessmen from 102 Israeli companies drawn from areas such as agriculture, water, cyber-security, healthcare and security.
After his arrival, Netanyahu, who came with his wife Sara, tweeted, “Thank you to my good friend, Indian Prime Minister @narendramodi, who surprised me with a personal welcome at the airport upon my arrival in India. Together we will bring the relations between our countries to new heights.”
Modi, who welcomed Netanyahu with a hug upon his arrival, said, “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 both English and Hebrew.
The two leaders then went to the Teen Murti Chowk in central Delhi, which was formally renamed Teen Murti-Haifa Chowk. They also laid a wreath and signed the visitor’s book at the memorial, where Modi wrote, in Gujarati, that he saluted the “great Indian traditions of selfless sacrifice and penance” of Indian soldiers who laid down their lives during the liberation of the city of Haifa during the First World War. “One of these pages was written 100 years ago, in the sacrifice of Indian soldiers at Haifa… Naming this spot as Teen Murti-Haifa Chowk marks this historic occasion. In the presence of the Prime Minister of Israel, we pay homage to the brave soldiers,” Modi wrote in the visitor’s book.
The three bronze statues at Teen Murti represent the Hyderabad, Jodhpur and Mysore Lancers who were part of the 15 Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade, which carried out the victorious assault on the fortified city of Haifa on September 23, 1918, during World War I. Forty-four Indian soldiers laid down their lives in the battle. Ahead of the visit, Netanyahu said that he was keen to strengthen bilateral relations “even more”. “This evening I am leaving on an historic visit to India. I will meet with the Prime Minister, my friend Narendra Modi, with the Indian President and with many other leaders. We will sign very many agreements,” Netanyahu said in a statement.
The visit marks 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and takes place about six months after Modi’s trip to Israel, the first by an Indian Prime Minister to the Jewish state. Netanyahu’s visit to India is only the second one by an Israeli prime minister and comes after a gap of 15 years. Former prime minister Ariel Sharon visited India in 2003. Netanyahu will be visiting Delhi, Agra, Gujarat and Mumbai and will be accompanied by Modi on extensive portions of his visit, a press statement said.
Israel will be investing $68.6 million to boost cooperation with India in areas such as tourism, technology, agriculture and innovation over a period of four years. The commitment is in addition to the India-Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund of USD 40 million over five years with equal contribution from both sides that has already been agreed between the two nations.