Modi, Ne­tanyahu seek to fur­ther deepen ties

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi held talks with Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu yes­ter­day on the first ever visit by an In­dian premier to Is­rael as they sought to deepen ties be­yond high-priced de­fense deals. The two lead­ers pre­sented a se­ries of agree­ments be­tween In­dia and Is­rael for co­op­er­a­tion on satel­lite tech­nol­ogy, wa­ter and agri­cul­ture, as well as the cre­ation of a $40 mil­lion in­no­va­tion fund. The agree­ments are part of ef­forts to ex­tend re­la­tions in civil­ian ar­eas be­tween both coun­tries, with Is­rael al­ready sell­ing In­dia an av­er­age of $1 bil­lion per year in mil­i­tary equip­ment. Ne­tanyahu and Modi have greeted each other warmly through­out the three-day trip that be­gan on Tues­day, call­ing the visit "his­toric" and "ground­break­ing". "I have a feel­ing that to­day In­dia and Is­rael are chang­ing our world and maybe chang­ing parts of the world," Ne­tanyahu said af­ter talks with Modi in Jerusalem.

He added that they had asked their staffs to put to­gether con­crete plans for fur­ther co­op­er­a­tion in a range of fields by the end of the year. Modi said the dis­cus­sions ex­tended be­yond bi­lat­eral projects to "how our co­op­er­a­tion can help the cause of global peace and sta­bil­ity." The In­dian premier also said they "agreed to do much more to­gether to pro­tect our strate­gic in­ter­ests and also co­op­er­ate to com­bat grow­ing rad­i­cal­iza­tion and ter­ror­ism, in­clud­ing in cy­berspace."Modi's visit marks 25 years since In­dia and Is­rael es­tab­lished diplo­matic re­la­tions.

Red car­pet wel­come

Ne­tanyahu and other of­fi­cials gave him a red car­pet wel­come at Ben Gu­rion air­port near Tel Aviv as he be­gan his visit on Tues­day. 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 Mah­mud Ab­bas in New Delhi in May. Big-ticket de­fense deals - 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 de­fence ties-par­tic­u­larly as it moves away from re­ly­ing on tra­di­tional ally Rus­sia for its mil­i­tary hard­ware.

In­dia is the world's big­gest im­porter of de­fense equip­ment, and Is­rael has be­come one of its ma­jor sup­pli­ers. In April, sta­te­owned 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 medi­um­range sur­face-to-air missiles, launch­ers and com­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nol­ogy.

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 com­bat­ing 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 has seemed to find sim­i­lar com­mon ground with Ne­tanyahu, Is­rael's long­time right-wing prime min­is­ter who hosted Trump in May. — AFP

JERUSALEM: In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi (L) shakes with his Is­raeli coun­ter­part Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu dur­ing a press con­fer­ence. — AFP

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