People of Indian origin in Israel will get Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards even if they have undergone the compulsory army service in Israel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Wednesday evening while addressing the Indian diaspora in Tel Aviv.
Acknowledging the problems faced by people of Indian origin in getting the OCI cards, PM Modi said the Indian government was simplifying rules. And now, even those who have undergone the compulsory military service in Israel will get the OCI cards, the prime minister said amid loud cheering from the crowd.
Modi also announced that direct flights between Delhi, Mumbai and Tel Aviv would soon be launched to encourage people-to-people contacts between the two countries.
He said an Indian Cultural Centre would also be opened in Israel, fulfilling a long-pending demand of the Indian diaspora.
Modi said the Jewish nation had links with India dating back to centuries but the fact that no Indian prime minister had travelled here in 70 years “raises questions”, an apparent swipe at the previous governments of India.
“For the first time in 70 years, an Indian prime minister has landed here to seek your blessings,” he said amid chants of “Modi, Modi”.
Describing Netanyahu as “my friend”, Modi said the kind of welcome extended to him could not be forgotten.
Hailing Israel, particularly its innovations and scientific advancements, he said the country had demonstrated that the number and size does not matter but it is the spirit that matters.
Modi said there were about 600 Indian students in Israel who could contribute to the future of the relationship.
He spoke about former Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres, saying he had worked tirelessly for the humanity.
Referring to Moshe Holtzberg, the 11-year-old Israeli boy, who was saved by an Indian nanny during the Mumbai terror attacks of 2008, Modi said it had shown how life succeeds over terrorism. Modi met Moshe earlier in the day along with his former nanny and grandparents.
Modi also recalled the contribution of the Indian army in liberation of Jerusalem and Haifa during the World War-I.
In his 60-minute speech, Modi talked about various programmes initiated by his government and said these were aimed at the betterment of the common people.
Netanyahu, who was also present at the event and spoke before Modi, said the partnership between India and Israel was “made in heaven.”
He said he and Modi had decided on a vast programme and the Indian diaspora was “a bridge”. “We love you,” he added.
(With inputs from PTI)