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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to arrive in India on Sunday; trade, defence on agenda

Benjamin Netanyahu will arrive in India on Sunday on a six-day visit.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to arrive in India on Sunday; trade, defence on agenda
Pic courtesy: IANS

New Delhi: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will arrive in India on Sunday on a six-day visit during which both the strategic partners will aim to further expand ties on a range of key areas including defence and trade, as per reports.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Netanyahu will hold talks on Monday covering entire expanse of the ties and explore new areas of cooperation to further deepen the "very very special relationship", the external affairs ministry had said on January 11, 2018.

Joint Secretary (West Asia-North Africa division) in the ministry B Bala Bhaskar had said that the Palestinian issue is likely to figure in the talks between the two PMs besides other key issues of mutual importance.

India last month had joined 127 other countries to vote in the United Nations General Assembly in favour of a resolution opposing the recent decision of US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"This is a very very special relationship... We want to take it to a higher level," Bhaskar had said. 

Asked whether the purchase of Spike anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) from Israel through the government-to-government (G- to-G) route will be discussed during Netanyahu's visit, Bhaskar had refused to give a direct reply.

In November, the defence ministry had decided to retract the process to acquire a batch of Spike missiles from Israeli firm Rafael Advanced Defence Systems. Now, it is learnt that the government is considering buying the missiles through G- to-G route, as per PTI.

Bhaskar had said both the countries have long-standing defence ties and new areas of cooperation are being explored.

Also Read - Benjamin Netanyahu's India visit - Here's his itinerary

On the other hand, a senior official has said that Israel will invest USD 68.6 million to boost cooperation with India in areas like tourism, technology, agriculture and innovation over a period of four years

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 sides, deputy director general of Israel's Foreign Ministry, Gilad Cohen, had told PTI.

Netanyahu will be leading a high-profile delegation comprising 130 businessmen from 102 Israeli companies drawn from areas like agriculture, water, cybersecurity, healthcare and security.

Several MoUs, including in the field of oil and gas, renewable energy, an amended protocol for airports, cybersecurity, co-production of films and documentaries are expected to be signed between the two sides.

Meanwhile, Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon on Friday had downplayed India's stand at the UN General Assembly over the US decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in place of Tel Aviv, saying New Delhi's view "cannot influence" Indo-Israel ties.

"I don't think it can influence the relationship. The relationship is much stronger than the one vote here and there," Carmon had said but had maintained that it was "not a happy" situation when members of the international community did not vote in favour on the issue at the UN.

The envoy had also said that sometimes India comes with a request (at the UN) and sometimes Israel does.

On the strong bond between the two leaders which was driving the current Indo-Israeli ties, Carmon had said that the relationship between India and Israel is an "all-weather friendship".

Netanyahu's itinerary in India:

PM Modi will be hosting a private dinner for Netanyahu on January 14, 2018, after his arrival in New Delhi. The Israeli leader would be meeting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also the same day.

The Israeli PM would be formally welcomed the next day at the Rashtrapati Bhawan following which he would lay a wreath at Rajghat.

He would be then participating in a dialogue at Hyderabad house which will also include a one-on-one discussion with PM Modi. Meetings with President Ram Nath Kovind and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu are also scheduled for Monday.

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.

PM Modi would be accompanying Netanyahu to Gujarat on Wednesday where he will be welcomed with a roadshow in Ahmadabad.

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 be arriving in Mumbai on Wednesday in the evening where he would be meeting with the Indian Jewish community.

It will be the second visit by an Israeli Prime Minister to India after a gap of 15 years since Ariel Sharon visited New Delhi in 2003. The visit comes merely six months after PM Modi visited the Jewish state, becoming the first Indian premier to do so.

(With Agency inputs)