First Is­rael visit by In­dian PM

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

JERUSALEM: Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi ar­rived in Is­rael yes­ter­day for what he called a “ground­break­ing” first ever visit by an In­dian premier, with grow­ing ties be­tween the two coun­tries in­clud­ing bil­lions of dol­lars in de­fense deals. Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and other of­fi­cials gave Modi a red car­pet wel­come at Ben Gu­rion air­port near Tel Aviv as he be­gan his three-day visit. The two lead­ers em­braced heartily and gave brief speeches, pledg­ing to work to­gether on is­sues in­clud­ing se­cu­rity, agri­cul­ture and en­ergy.

“It is my sin­gu­lar honor to be the first ever prime min­is­ter of In­dia to un­der­take this ground­break­ing visit to Is­rael,” Modi said. Ne­tanyahu said “we’ve been wait­ing for you a long time. We’ve been wait­ing al­most 70 years in fact, be­cause yours is truly a his­toric visit”. Modi later vis­ited the Yad Vashem Holo­caust memo­rial in Jerusalem and was to have din­ner with Ne­tanyahu. The two lead­ers are to hold talks to­day.

Is­rael, con­stantly search­ing for al­lies at the United Na­tions and for new busi­ness part­ners, has por­trayed

the visit as a ma­jor diplo­matic vic­tory. Is­raeli an­a­lysts have noted that Modi is not sched­uled to travel to Ra­mal­lah to meet Pales­tinian lead­ers dur­ing his three-day stay, as is com­mon for vis­it­ing dig­ni­taries. Modi did how­ever meet Pales­tinian pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas in New Delhi in May. In­dia is the world’s big­gest im­porter of de­fense equip­ment, and Is­rael has be­come one of its ma­jor sup­pli­ers.

Is­raeli me­dia have re­ported that the two coun­tries sign de­fense deals av­er­ag­ing more than $1 bil­lion a year. In April, state-owned Is­rael Aero­space In­dus­tries said In­dia would buy nearly $2 bil­lion worth of weapons tech­nol­ogy, mak­ing it the mil­i­tary ex­port­ing gi­ant’s largest ever de­fense con­tract. The deal will see IAI pro­vide In­dia with an ad­vanced de­fense sys­tem of medium-range sur­face-to-air mis­siles, launch­ers and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy.

Modi and Ne­tanyahu also hope to build on co­op­er­a­tion in ar­eas in­clud­ing wa­ter and agri­cul­ture tech­nol­ogy, sec­tors where Is­rael has ex­celled. In­dia has tra­di­tion­ally voiced its sup­port for Pales­tinian state­hood, long shun­ning ties with Is­rael. But the frost has thawed in re­cent years, with In­dia seek­ing closer de­fense ties - par­tic­u­larly as it moves away from re­ly­ing on tra­di­tional ally Rus­sia for its mil­i­tary hard­ware. Modi’s visit marks 25 years since the two coun­tries es­tab­lished diplo­matic re­la­tions.

The Hindu na­tion­al­ist makes the trip af­ter his visit last week to Wash­ing­ton, where he and US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump em­braced each other as friends, vow­ing to work more closely on com­bat­ting ter­ror­ism, the war in Afghanistan and de­fense co­op­er­a­tion. While ties with some US al­lies have been strained by Trump’s com­plaints that Wash­ing­ton has been the loser in trade agree­ments, Modi ap­peared sen­si­tive to his host’s em­pha­sis on trans­ac­tional diplo­macy.

Modi may find sim­i­lar com­mon ground with Ne­tanyahu, Is­rael’s long­time right-wing prime min­is­ter who hosted Trump in May. In­dia is cur­rently the world’s fastest grow­ing ma­jor econ­omy, a sta­tus that Modi is hop­ing to ce­ment by draw­ing in more for­eign in­vest­ment. He has sought to do that in part by en­cour­ag­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers to do busi­ness in Asia’s third-largest econ­omy. Is­rael’s de­fense deals have in­cluded com­po­nents that will be as­sem­bled in In­dia. “On this visit, your ‘make in In­dia’ ini­tia­tive meets my ‘make with In­dia’ pol­icy,” Ne­tanyahu said at the air­port cer­e­mony.— AFP

— AFP

TEL AVIV: Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu (right) greets his In­dian coun­ter­part Naren­dra Modi dur­ing an of­fi­cial cer­e­mony at Ben-Gu­rion In­ter­na­tional air­port yes­ter­day.

Peo­ple ride a roller­coaster at dusk at Worlds of Fun amuse­ment park on Mon­day in Kansas City, Montana. — AP

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