Israel fetes Modi after arms deal
Indian PM fails to meet Palestinians
INDIA’S Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday started a high-profile visit to Israel aimed at strengthening his country’s already close ties with the Jewish state.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeted Modi at Israel’s international airport near Tel Aviv and will accompany the Indian leader throughout the three-day visit.
Israeli officials said the warm treatment goes well beyond diplomatic protocol.
Modi, who will not be meeting Palestinian officials while he is in town, was welcomed with an honour guard and hugged Netanyahu as he descended from the aircraft.
Modi said it was a “singular honour” to be the first sitting prime minister of India to visit Israel.
India is a major purchaser of Israeli arms.
This year, Israel’s state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries has announced over $2 billion (R26.6bn) in contracts to provide air and missile-defence systems to India.
Rafael, another state-owned defence contractor, is trying to finalise a deal to sell 8 000 “Spike” antitank missiles to India in a deal that is reportedly valued at some $1bn, according to an industry expert familiar with the deal.
During the Cold War, India was a leading member of the Non-Aligned Movement of developing countries and sided staunchly with the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel.
Before ties were established in 1992, India would not allow its citizens to enter Israel on an Indian passport.
But over the past 25 years, the two countries have cultivated close ties, particularly in the areas of technology and defence co-operation.
India is the world’s biggest importer of defence equipment and Israel has become one of its major suppliers.
In recent years, the two nations have strategised on “counterterrorism” efforts.
In a departure from standard protocol, Modi will not be visiting the Palestinians.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas visited Modi in India in May, and Indian officials say they handled all their business at the time.
Netanyahu will join Modi at virtually every stop of a packed schedule that includes working meetings, a trip to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and meetings with hi-tech executives.
Yuval Rotem, the director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, said the decision for Netanyahu to spend so much time with Modi is not a standard practice for visiting dignitaries and indicated “the highest level of importance” attached to the visit.
Mark Sofer, the ministry’s deputy director for Asia and the Pacific, said the meetings would focus on various areas of technology, including cybersecurity and space research.
When Netanyahu visited India in November, he was greeted by protests in the capital New Delhi, organised by groups who denounced what they described as the “Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people”.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, hugs his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.