Ties warm as In­dia’s Modi wraps up Is­rael visit

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NEWS - ILAN BEN ZION

JERUSALEM — In­dian Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi on Thurs­day capped a three-day visit to Is­rael with a bare­foot stroll along the Mediter­ranean shore with Is­raeli coun­ter­part Benjamin Ne­tanyahu.

The two lead­ers’ ex­u­ber­ance for warm­ing bi­lat­eral ties has taken the form of bear hugs, greet­ings on so­cial me­dia and pledges for in­creased trade and co­op­er­a­tion.

Modi and Ne­tanyahu on Thurs­day paid their re­spects to In­dian sol­diers killed fight­ing with the Bri­tish army dur­ing World War I be­fore tak­ing a spin on the beach in an Is­raeli-de­signed mo­bile de­sali­na­tion buggy.

The two sipped wa­ter pro­duced by the ma­chine, served in wine­glasses, be­fore Modi hitched up his pants and waded an­kle-deep into the surf. Ne­tanyahu did not roll up his slacks, which got soaked.

Is­raeli agri­cul­ture and wa­ter tech­nolo­gies have been a ma­jor draw for In­dian in­vest­ment and the sub­ject of sev­eral deals signed dur­ing Modi’s visit.

“In­dia ad­mires the suc­cess of people of Is­rael in over­com­ing ad­ver­sity to ad­vance, in­no­vate and flour­ish against all odds,” Modi said Wed­nes­day at a joint news con­fer­ence high­light­ing wa­ter and agri­cul­tural tech­nol­ogy.

Ne­tanyahu touted Is­rael’s ties with the world’s most pop­u­lous democ­racy as a “mar­riage made in heaven,” while Modi pro­claimed that their goal was “to build a re­la­tion­ship that re­flects our shared pri­or­i­ties and draws on en­dur­ing bonds be­tween our peo­ples.”

Though In­dia kept a frosty dis­tance from Is­rael dur­ing the Cold War, align­ing it­self with the Sovi­ets and fa­vor­ing the Pales­tinian cause, the past two decades have seen New Delhi forge ever closer diplo­matic and trade re­la­tions with the Jewish state.

Bi­lat­eral trade has sky­rock­eted from $200 mil­lion in 1992, when In­dia and Is­rael es­tab­lished diplo­matic ties, to $4.16 bil­lion in 2016, ac­cord­ing to the In­dian Em­bassy in Tel Aviv. Even so, that fig­ure re­mains far below Is­rael’s nearly $40 bil­lion in an­nual bi­lat­eral trade with its largest part­ners, the U.S. and EU.

Both coun­tries ap­pear set on re­duc­ing that gap. Bil­lions of dol­lars in Is­raeli arms sales to New Delhi have formed the bedrock of diplo­matic de­tente.

Is­rael is In­dia’s third-largest sup­plier of weapons after the United States and Rus­sia. Ear­lier this year, Is­rael’s state-owned Is­rael Aerospace In­dus­tries an­nounced more than $2 bil­lion in air and mis­sile-de­fense con­tracts with In­dia.

Modi and Ne­tanyahu, both lead­ers of na­tion­al­ist par­ties, said they dis­cussed greater se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion, en­com­pass­ing coun­tert­er­ror­ism and cy­ber­se­cu­rity. Amid a hand­ful of high-level trade agree­ments, three Is­raeli de­fense firms an­nounced a new deal to pro­vide In­dia with top-ofthe-line com­bat drones.

Modi’s visit, the first by an In­dian prime min­is­ter, marks 25 years of diplo­matic re­la­tions. He vis­ited the Yad Vashem Holo­caust memo­rial, em­braced a boy whose par­ents were killed in a 2008 mas­sacre in Mum­bai car­ried out by Is­lamic mil­i­tants, and ad­dressed an ec­static crowd of In­dian Jews in Tel Aviv.

Modi did not meet with any Pales­tinian of­fi­cials dur­ing his visit. In­dian and Pales­tinian of­fi­cials said there was no snub, not­ing that Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas vis­ited Modi in In­dia in May.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.