Netanyahu in India on ‘historic’ visit; Modi breaks protocol, receives him at Delhi airport
Jerusalem, Jan 14: Keen to strengthen bilateral relations “even more”, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday reached India on a six-day visit along with the largest business delegation that has ever accompanied an Israeli premier on an overseas tour. “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 earlier in the day said in statement. “We are strengthening ties between Israel and this important global power. This serves our security, economic, trade and tourism interests, as well as many other areas. This is a great blessing for the State of Israel,” he said. “Indian Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi is a close friend of Israel and of mine and I appreciate the fact that he will accompany me on extensive parts of my visit,” Netanyahu said just before leaving for New Delhi. “On this visit I intend to strengthen bilateral relations even more. This visit is an opportunity to enhance cooperation with a global economic, security, technology and tourism power,” he added. Meanwhile, setting aside protocol, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself received Netanyahu at the airport. He welcomed Netanyahu with a hug upon his arrival. 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. He will hold meetings with President Ram Nath Kovind and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, apart from Modi. Several MoUs, including in the field of oil and gas, renewable energy, amended protocol for airports, cyber security, and co-production of films and documentaries, will be signed between the two sides. Israel’s Saare Tzedek hospital would be signing an agreement with the ministry of health and family welfare. Informed sources here said that this relates to sharing of knowledge in the field of homoeopathy and Ayurveda that have been gaining popularity in Israel over the last few years. Technion-Israel Institute of Technology would also be signing an agreement with the ministry of science and technology, sources here said. Netanyahu is leading a high-profile delegation comprising 130 businessmen from 102 Israeli companies drawn from areas like agriculture, water, cyber security, health care and security, on his trip. Israel will be investing USD 68.6 million to boost cooperation with India in areas like tourism, technology, agriculture and innovation over a period of four years, a senior official here said ahead of Netanyahu’s visit. 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, Deputy Director General of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Gilad Cohen, earlier told PTI. Moshe Holtzberg, the toddler who survived the November 2008 Mumbai terror attack but lost his parents, will also join the trip with his grandparents and his brave Indian nanny, Sandra Samuels, who saved him. Netanyahu had promised to take him along on his visit during an emotional meeting between the now 11-year-old boy and Modi in Jerusalem in July. The Indian prime minister will be hosting a private dinner for Netanyahu today evening after his arrival in New Delhi. The Israeli leader would also meet Swaraj today. The Israeli premier would be formally welcomed tomorrow morning at Rashtrapati Bhawan following which he would lay a wreath at Rajghat. He would then participate in a dialogue at Hyderabad House which will also include a one-on-one discussion with Modi. A meeting with President Kovind is also scheduled for tomorrow. Netanyahu, accompanied by his wife Sara, would be travelling to Agra to see the Taj Mahal on Tuesday and return to Delhi to participate in the Raisina Dialogue. Modi would be accompanying Netanyahu to Gujarat on Wednesday where he will be welcomed in the same fashion as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was with a road show in Ahmedabad. The road show is said to be an 8-kilometre drive from the airport to the Sabarmati Ashram. The two leaders will also be witnessing several innovative technologies in the field of water, agriculture and health at iCreate and visit a Centre of Excellence. Netanyahu would arrive in Mumbai on Wednesday in the evening where he will meet the Indian Jewish community. A packed schedule on Thursday for the Israeli premier in Mumbai would include a “power breakfast” with Indian business leaders, a business seminar, attending two memorial services for the victims of the 26/11 attack at the Taj hotel and Nariman House and finally a gala event with Bollywood actors.