Prime Minister Narendra Modi held delegation-level talks with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday and invited Israel firms to take advantage of the liberalised FDI regime in the defence sector to make in India. Netanyahu, who is on a six-day tour to India, called Modi a “revolutionary” leader as the two nations inked nine pacts to boost cooperation in key areas, including cybersecurity and energy.
“In defence, I have invited Israeli companies to take advantage of the liberalised FDI regime to make more in India with our companies. Last year, you (Netanyahu) had expressed an intent to cut down bureaucratic red tape. In India, we are doing just that. Our discussions today were marked by convergence to accelerate development and scale our partnership,” Modi said.
Presently, FDI in defence is allowed up to 49 per cent through the automatic route, while government nod is required for 100 per cent foreign investment. Recently, the government has allowed 100 per cent FDI in single-brand retail in a bid to ease business.
Meanwhile, the bonhomie between the two leaders was on full show during the joint address when Modi referred to the Israel PM by his nickname ‘Bibi’ and Netanyahu addressed the Indian PM by his first name ‘Narendra’. It may be recalled that during former US President Barack Obama’s visit to India in January 2015, Modi had referred to him by his first name more than once during a joint address, in what signalled a growing friendship between India and the US.
“Last year in July, I carried the greetings and friendship of 1.25 billion Indians during my momentous journey to Israel. In return, I was overwhelmed by the generous affection and warmth of the Israeli people led by my friend Bibi,” Modi said. Modi’s visit to Israel last year was the first by an Indian sitting PM to the Jewish state.
Stressing that agriculture, science, and technology would be the focus of the cooperation between the two countries, Modi said, “We will strengthen existing pillars of cooperation in areas that touch the lives of our peoples. These are agriculture, science and technology and security. We exchanged views on scaling up the Centers of Excellence that have been a mainstay of agricultural cooperation.”
On his part, Netanyahu praised India’s tolerance and democracy, saying Jews in the country never witnessed antisemitism like in other nations. “Jews in India have never witnessed antisemitism like in some other countries. This is a tribute to India’s great civilization, tolerance, and democracy,” he said.
Lauding Modi for revolutionising India-Israel relations, Netanyahu, who is the second Israeli PM to visit India after Ariel Sharon, said despite the doubts and challenges, the nations were living proof that democracy worked. “Despite the doubts and challenges, India and Israel are living proof that democracy works and indicates something deeper — the intrinsic value of freedom. We are proud we are seizing the future to make lives better around the world,” Netanyahu said.
The 26/11 Mumbai attacks also found mention in Netanyahu’s address. “Indians and Israelis remember too well the savagery of terrorist attacks. We fight back, we never give in,” the Israeli PM said. About six Israelis were killed during the attack by Lashkar-e-Toiba on Chabad House. Eleven-year-old Moshe Holtzberg, whose parents were killed in the attack, will visit the Chabad House next week.
Speaking on the shared past of the two countries, Netanyahu said, “Your visit to Israel was groundbreaking as it was the first time an Indian leader visited the country. You (PM Narendra Modi) are catapulting India into future and are revolutionising India-Israel relations.” Modi’s historic visit to Israel was remembered for more than diplomatic reasons and it was his camaraderie with Netanyahu that caught everyone’s eye, including the leaders walking barefoot on the beach hand in hand.
During Modi’s visit, Netanyahu had said ‘I’ for ‘I’ is India for Israel, and ‘I’ with ‘I’ is India with Israel. However, this time the Israel PM signed off by saying, “My friend Narendra, if anytime you want to do a yoga class, it’s a big stretch but I will be there, try me.”