On the eve of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “historic” visit to Israel, a senior official from the Israeli foreign ministry said that his country supports India on terrorism emanating from Pakistan “hook, line and sinker”, and is “not asking for a quid pro quo”. “Israel supports India on terrorism emanating out of Pakistan, hook, line and sinker. But we are not asking for a quid pro quo… the horrors coming from Pakistan…the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the rogue operations from Pakistan. We say that India has the right to defend itself, just like Israel has the right to defend itself. I don’t see a difference between LeT and Hamas. A terrorist is a terrorist is a terrorist,” said Mark Sofer, deputy director general in charge of the Asia and Pacific division.
Modi is expected to arrive in Israel — the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister — at 4 pm local time and will be received at the airport by his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu and senior ministers.
Both the prime ministers are scheduled to hold talks Wednesday. Netanyahu will accompany Modi for most of the two-day visit after hosting a private dinner for the Indian Prime Minister at his official residence Tuesday. Modi is also scheduled to visit a floriculture farm and the Holocaust museum.
Sofer, a former ambassador to India, said the two sides will sign three agreements on space cooperation; launch a joint strategic partnership on water and agriculture; open a new Indian cultural centre in Israel; and, launch a joint CEOs forum.
Speaking about a common concern, Sofer said, “Both countries face the same challenges of terrorism and face the same struggle. No civilised country can defeat terrorism by itself. All like-minded countries, like India and Israel, have to make a concerted effort.”
Asked about counter-terrorism cooperation, Sofer said it would not be the focus of the visit, but will definitely be a part of the discussions. “When countries are faced with similar challenges, then like-minded democratic countries have to come together to fight against those evil challenges,” he said.
Israel’s Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon said the two countries had signed an agreement on homeland security in 2014 and that cooperation was happening on that front.
Israeli officials described Modi’s visit as “historic” and “special”, and said the groundwork was prepared by “seven pre-visits” from different ministries and departments from India. “It is difficult, if not impossible, to overstate the importance of the visit,” said Sofer.
Asked if the Palestinian issue would come up during discussions, Sofer said, “When two leaders meet, all issues are on the table.”
On Modi’s itinerary not including Palestine, unlike those of leaders in the past from India, Sofer said there was “nothing sinister or special” about this. “Israel has de-hyphenated its relationship…and Prime Minister Modi’s visit is a bilateral visit,” he said.
PM ON TUESDAY
4 pm: Arrival
5 pm: Farm visit
6.30 pm: Holocaust museum
7.30 pm: Dinner with Netanyahu.