Netanyahu arrives in India, receives ‘surprise welcome’ by Indian leader Modi

Netanyahu landed in Delhi, where he received a ‘surprise welcome’ by PM Modi. Prior to his departure, the Israeli leader said the enhanced ties between the two countries are “a great blessing for the State of Israel.”

By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara arrived in Delhi Sunday, where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to welcome them in person. A Minister of State for External Affairs was originally scheduled to greet them.

“I very much appreciate the gesture,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu’s official visit marks 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries and takes place some six months after Modi’s historic visit to Israel in July.

Prior to his departure, the Israeli prime minister said he was “strengthening ties between Israel and this important global power [India]. 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.”

“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,” Netanyahu stated. “Indian Prime Minister 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.”

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Netanyahu will visit Delhi, Mumbai and Gujarat, and hold meetings with Modi, Indian President Ram Nath Kovind and External Affairs Minister Sushama Swaraj.

Moshe Holtzberg, 12, who lost his parents in the November 2008 terrorist attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai, is joining the trip, as Netanyahu had promised him during their meeting with Modi in Israel.

Largest delegation ever to accompany an Israeli PM

Also joining Netanyahu is the largest business delegation that has ever accompanied an Israeli prime minister on an official visit, the purpose  of which is to enhance and strengthen economic ties as well as creating joint business opportunities between Israeli and Indian businesspeople, the Israeli foreign minister stated.

Netanyahu and the Israeli delegation will meet with senior Indian entrepreneurs and hold additional economic events while meeting with a forum of managing directors of the two countries’ largest companies.

Netanyahu will also meet with Jewish community leaders and senior Bollywood figures. He will visit Gandhi’s tomb in Delhi and attend ceremonies in Mumbai in memory of the victims of the 2008 attacks on the Taj Palace Hotel and the Chabad House.

Other professional meetings will be held between the two sides, and bilateral agreements will be signed in energy, cyber and aviation.

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Of note, Israel will sign a cinema co-production agreement  with India to strength ties between the two countries’ film industries by granting joint government support funds for Israeli-Indian productions.

The leaders will also discuss a detailed working plan for the next five years, pursuant to the government’s decision, led by Netanyahu, to strengthen bilateral ties.

Budding Israel-India ties

Ties between the two countries have warmed considerably in recent years, especially since Modi took office.

Netanyahu and Modi met for the first time at the UN in September 2014, the first such meeting in over a decade. “We’re very excited by the prospects of greater and greater ties with India. We think the sky is the limit,” Netanyahu stated afterwards.

The relationship was given a further boost during the visit of Indian President Pranab Mukherjee to Israel in 2015 and the reciprocal visit of President Reuven Rivlin to India this past December.

India, with a population of 1.3 billion, has become a prime destination for Israeli exports. There are 300 million citizens in the middle and upper-middle class with purchasing power equal to the middle classes of Western economies.

According to the Israeli Ministry of Economy and Industry, since the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Israel in 1992, trade between the countries has grown from $200 million in 1992 to $4.13 billion in 2016.

Major export market

India also represents one of Israel’s most important export markets.

In 2015, Israeli exports to India saw a 21 percent increase. In 2016, the exports totaled $1.15 billion and India was ranked ninth among Israeli trade destinations.

Several joint ventures have been launched in the fields of agriculture, science, health, IT and telecommunications. Both sides are eager to cooperate on other issues as well, such as water and smart cities.

As of today, India is Israel’s second-largest trade partner in Asia, after China.

Since the 1990s, the governments of Israel and India have signed a variety of cooperation agreements in the sectors of agriculture, communications, trade, investment, R&D, environmental protection, water and medicine.

Israeli companies have also established offices as well as production facilities in India.