Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Israel yesterday for a 3-day tour of the Jewish State, the first ever by an Indian Premier. Following his red carpet welcome at the Ben Gurion Airport, Modi engaged in some serious bilateral diplomacy with the Israeli government. Both countries signed a series of agreements in the fields of agriculture, water, and space exploration.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accompanied Modi to the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, located on the slopes of the Mount of Remembrance near Jerusale, where the Indian leader laid a wreath in the Hall of Remembrance in memory of over six million Jews killed in the Holocaust. Both leaders made an impromptu stop at the grave of Theodor Herzl, the founding father of modern Zionism.

The visit has attracted enormous media and public interest in both the countries, with #ModiInIsrael became the leading hashtag on Twitter in both Israel and India.

“India-Israel ties are at an all time high,” Prime Minister Modi tweeted as he began his day in Jerusalem. The highlights of the day included his meeting with the president of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, and a public reception in Tel Aviv hosted by the Jewish-Indian community.

“Narendra Modi receives extraordinary welcome as he begins path-breaking visit to Israel,” noted Indian financial daily Economic Times.  “The personal chemistry and the warmth between Modi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was apparent in their remarks and their hugs.” The newspaper noted the significance of the visit that goes beyond the impressive personal rapport that both world leaders have managed to forge:

Behind the overt affection and friendship, lies deep political significance as India for the first time has delinked its relationship with Israel from its traditional support to Palestine. But, India now hopes to leverage its relationship with Israel to attract more investment, and gain from Israeli cutting-edge technology and defence.

“Investments to boost tourism, education and cultural ties and building bridges with the Indian diaspora in Israel can help boost ties between the two countries,” wrote the leading Indian business daily Mint. “Indeed, these are the low-hanging fruits in the bilateral relationship that can be plucked right away.”

“Red carpet welcome done, PM Narendra Modi gets down to business in Israel today,” reported the Indian news channel NDTV. “Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who usually meets visiting heads of government for a meeting and over dinner or lunch meeting, will accompany PM Modi to most engagements.”

On a historic visit that started with firm handshakes, hugs and a smattering of Hindi and Hebrew, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will get down to business today with back-to-back meetings with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders that will focus on cooperation on defence, security, water and more. Apart from the multiple pacts that the two strategic partners are expected to seal at Wednesday’s meetings, the two leaders are also expected to deliver a strong message against terrorism in their joint statement. Both leaders had yesterday spoken in one voice to resolutely combat terrorism and radicalism.

India-Israel partnership in the field of start-up alone has a revenue potential of $25 billion, projected NASSCOM, the association of Indian IT companies. Indian daily Financial Express published the excerpts of a report compiled by NASSCOM and consultancy firm Accenture:

Revenue worth USD 25 billion can be generated in India and Israel through cumulative cross- border investment into start-ups in these two countries, a joint report by Nasscom and Accenture today said. The report titled ‘Collaborative Innovation: The vehicle driving Indo-Israel prosperity’ noted India and Israel’s innovation ecosystems share unique innovation complementary traits in three areas — temperament, talent and technology.

 

Yesterday, Prime Netanyahu announced the creation of an innovation fund to promote research cooperation in the areas of agriculture, water, energy and technology. Israel and India have jointly allocated $40 million of seed money for the project.

The leading Centre-Right Indian magazine, SwarajyaMag, praised PM Modi’s diplomatic initiative but urged the government to “disassociate itself completely from the Palestinian question” and seek great strategic cooperation with Israel.

 

Later today, around 40,000 Israelis and Jews of Indian origin are expected to welcome PM Modi in Tel Aviv as part of a public reception in Tel Aviv hosted by the Jewish-Indian community living in Israel. Israel is home to some 80,000-100,000 Jews of Indian origin, many of whom maintain cultural and personal links with India. Additionally, some 12,000 Indian nationals live and work in the country. Indian Prime Minister hopes to boost bilateral diplomacy by building on these existing diaspora ties. India plans to build a cultural centre in Israel to foster cultural and diaspora links.

According to Indian media reports, PM Modi formally invited Israeli Premier to visit India. “Israel PM Netanyahu accepts PM Modi’s invitation to visit India with his family,” confirmed Indian TV network Times Now.

Video: PM Netanyahu welcomes PM Modi upon his arrival in Israel

[Cover image via YouTube]