Six Months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid the first-ever visit by an Indian PM to Israel, his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu will be the second Prime Minister from his country to visit India in the last 25 years of diplomatic relationship. The first was Ariel Sharon, who was hosted by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in September 2003.
Netanyahu, who lands in Delhi on Sunday afternoon for a four-day state visit, is likely to be received by Modi at the airport — during Modi’s Israel visit in July, Netanyahu had received him at the airport and called him “my friend”.
After his arrival, Netanyahu is likely to visit Teen Murti circle, where the “Haifa liberation day” is commemorated every year on September 23 — Teen Murti Marg is being renamed as Teen Murti Haifa Marg. The Indian Army celebrates ‘Haifa Day’ in remembrance of the Battle of Haifa, one of the most celebrated battles of the First World War, in the memory of cavalry troopers of the princely states — the Hyderabad, Jodhpur and Mysore Lancers who were part of the 15 Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade — who died during the First World War.
Later in the afternoon, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is expected to call on the visiting Israeli PM at the Taj Palace Hotel, where he will be staying. Modi will host a private dinner for the Israeli leader, who will also visit Gujarat and Mumbai. Bilateral talks are scheduled to take place on Monday, and all eyes are on the “substance” of the visit.
Ahead of the visit, Israel’s ambassador Daniel Carmon said the focus would be on “innovation”, with Israel being a country of “start-ups”. Officials said the two sides are likely to sign a slew of pacts on start-ups. Defence and security are expected to be on the agenda, as the relationship in this sphere is slowly coming out of the shadows.
“India imports critical defence technologies from Israel. There are regular exchanges between the armed forces. The leaders may dwell upon the subject more openly than in the past,” said a government source.
There is cooperation on security issues between the two countries, including a Joint Working Group on Counter-Terrorism. In February 2014, India and Israel signed three important agreements on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, Cooperation in Homeland Security, and Protection of Classified Material. The two sides are likely to strengthen their commitment as envisaged in the agreement on Cooperation on Homeland and Public Security and encourage the various working groups to implement the agreement in an efficient and effective manner.
The economic relationship is also going to figure in the talks, as the two sides are negotiating a Free Trade Agreement. While they are expected to hold the next round of talks in February, the two leaders are expected to take stock of the progress in the negotiations.