Modi-Netanyahu hold delegation level talks

RSTV Bureau

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is holding delegation-level talks with Prime Minister Modi in Delhi on the second day of historic six-day visit to India.

During the talks, both leaders are expected to discuss a host of issues including defence cooperation, trade, innovation and counter terrorism. Several MoUs are expected to be signed in different areas after the talks.

Ahead of the meeting, Israeli PM was accorded a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhawan. Netanyahu will also call on President Ram Nath Kovind Monday evening.

PM Modi and Netanyahu will also attend the 2nd India Israel CEO Forum Meeting in the evening. The first CEO Forum was held during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Israel. The two leaders will also attend the India Israel Business Summit.

Netanyahu is leading a high-profile delegation comprising 130 businessmen from 102 Israeli companies from areas like agriculture, water, cyber security, health care and security, on his trip.

Earlier on sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in New Delhi on Sunday afternoon with Prime Minister Narendra Modi receiving him at the airport, setting aside protocol.

During the visit, both the strategic partners will aim to further expand ties on a range of key areas including defence and trade besides deliberating on Israel-Palestine relationship.

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 said.

Joint Secretary (West Asia-North Africa division) in the ministry B Bala Bhaskar said the Palestinian issue is likely to figure in the talks between the two prime ministers 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.

“Our policy is not influenced by any third country… our policy is independent,” he said when asked about India’s position on the sensitive issue.

The Israeli prime minister will travel to Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Agra also.

“This is a very very special relationship… We want to take it to higher level,” said Bhaskar.

Modi had visited the Jewish state in July last year, becoming the first Indian prime minister to do so.

Asked whether 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 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.

Bhaskar said both the countries have long-standing defence ties and new areas of cooperation are being explored. He said the aim will be to further boost cooperation in a range of sectors including water, agriculture, scientific research and education.

Ahead of the visit, Israeli Ambassador Daniel Carmon said, “The Prime Minister’s visit to India is the grand finale to the celebrations of 25 years of growing partnership between India and Israel.”

He said the visit will focus on the progress made between India and Israel since Modi’s visit to Israel last summer, and on shaping the next 25 years of relations between the two countries.

Netanyahu is also scheduled to meet with the Indo-Israeli CEO forum in Delhi and address a separate business event.

He will deliver a speech at the Raisina Dialogue on January 16 and also meet President Ram Nath Kovind.

He will leave for Ahmedabad on the morning of January 17, where he will visit Sabarmati Ashram. Modi and he will also visit the Center of Excellence in Vadrad and inaugurate a Center of Excellence for date palms in Bhuj via video conference.

The Israeli prime minister will have a number of engagements in Mumbai on January 18. The Israeli embassy here said Netanyahu will meet with Jewish community leaders and select members of the Indian business community in Mumbai.

(With inputs from PTI)