NEW DELHI: Israel and India will announce deals and joint investments in areas ranging from defence to renewable energy, Gilad Cohen, deputy director-general in charge of Asia at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said in a briefing on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will receive Benjamin Netanyahu at the Delhi airport this afternoon as the Israeli prime minister arrives on a six-day visit, hoping to deepen ties in trade and defence. Mr Netanyahu will be accompanied by a 130-member delegation of businessmen involved in technologies related to agriculture, water, cyber and defence industries. During the trip, the Israeli PM will hold comprehensive talks with PM Modi and also visit his home state Gujarat, where the two leaders will hold a joint road show on Wednesday.
- PM Netanyahu’s visit is seen to be an effort to build on the July decision taken last year to elevate ties to a “strategic partnership” and deepen trade ties between the two countries. Israel needs large markets for its export-driven economy and has been working towards deepening ties with India and China.
- Israel and India will announce deals and joint investments in areas ranging from defence to renewable energy, Gilad Cohen, deputy director-general in charge of Asia at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said in a briefing on Wednesday.
- In PM Netanyahu’s 130-member delegation will be the head of the Rafael Advanced Defence Systems that lost out on $500 million deal to purchase Spike anti-tank guided missiles.
- In November, the Defence Ministry had decided to retract from the process to acquire a batch of Spike missiles. But army chief Bipin Rawat on Friday said the army and the government are discussing ways to revive the order. India is one of Israel’s biggest arms market, buying around $1 billion worth of weapons every year.
- The visit comes days after India voted against Israel at the UN on the Jerusalem issue. India had last month joined 127 other countries to vote in the UN General Assembly in favour of a resolution opposing the recent decision of US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The status of Jerusalem is one of the biggest obstacles to a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.
- Ahead of the visit, PM Netanyahu had said the UN vote wouldn’t hurt ties. “Well I would have preferred a different vote to be frank, but I don’t think it materially changes the tremendous flowering of relations between India and Israel.” Israel’s Ambassador to India, Daniel Carmon, too said “The vote at the UN is important, but it will not mar the big picture of the India-Israel relationship.”
- PM Modi had received a rousing welcome during his visit to the Jewish state in July last year when PM Netanyahu, who referred to the Indian leader as his ‘dear friend’, had received him at the airport and spent the next three days by his side. The PM Modi-Netanyahu bromance was seen to be carefully choreographed, complete with shots of bear hugs and them walking barefoot together through the Mediterranean surf.
- Mr Netanyahu’s visit will begin in New Delhi where he will have dinner with PM Modi and meet Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. The following day he will call on President Ram Nath Kovind then have more talks with PM Modi. On Tuesday, Mr Netanyahu will visit the Taj Mahal and then attend the annual “Raisina Dialogue” geo-political conference.
- One of Mr Netanyahu’s stops on the trip, the first by an Israeli premier since Ariel Sharon in 2003, will be in Mumbai where he will meet on January 18 with stars and executives of India’s mammoth film industry. Bollywood “mega-celebs wield tremendous influence around the world,” Mr Cohen said.
- 11-year Moshe Holtzberg will also accompany PM Netanyahu and participate in a function at the Chabad House in Mumbai. Moshe’s parents were killed in the 26/11 terror attack at the Chabad House.