Despite the recent diplomatic rift over India’s vote against Israel in the UN General Assembly, the visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi got off to a promising start with both country’s singing nine bilateral agreements — ranging from transfer of agriculture technology to strategic defense cooperation.


Indian media dubbed the visit as ‘historic’ and ‘landmark’, highlighting the fact that it is the second such visit by an Israeli Prime Minister and it comes after a gap of 15 years since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon 2003 path-breaking visit. The visit comes almost six months after Prime Minister  Modi visited Israel, first sitting Indian Prime Minister to do so. The trip also marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of full diplomatic ties between the two countries.

India rolled out the red carpet for the visiting Israeli leader, who arrived in New Delhi on Sunday on a six-day tour. Prime Minister Modi broke the protocol to receive Prime Minister Netanyahu and his wife Sara at the Delhi airport, several Indian media outlets reported.

“We are venturing into less explored areas of cooperation, such as oil and gas, cyber security, films, and start-ups,” Prime Minister Narenda Modi said in his joint statement on Monday. “We are committed to facilitating the flow of people and ideas between our geographies. It requires policy facilitation, infrastructure and connectivity links and fostering constituencies of support beyond Government.”

“We are working with Israel to make it easier for our people to work and visit each other’s countries, including for longer work duration. To bring people closer on both sides, an Indian Cultural Center will soon open in Israel,” Prime Minister Modi added.

“You are a revolutionary leader in the best sense of the word ‘revolution’,” Prime Minister Netanyahu said, addressing Indian Prime Minister at the same event. “You are revolutionizing India. You are catapulting this magnificent state into the future and you have revolutionized the relationship between Israel and India.”

Indian business newspaper Live Mint detailed of the bilateral agreements reached so far:

India and Israel on Monday inked nine pacts to boost cooperation in key areas, including cyber security, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu held extensive talks to strengthen ties in the strategic areas of defence and counter- terrorism. Modi also invited Israeli defence companies to India for co-production in the sector.

India and Israel will strengthen the existing pillars of cooperation in areas such as agriculture, technology and security, Modi said at a joint media event with Netanyahu. On his part, Netanyahu described Modi as a “revolutionary” leader. Apart from a pact on cyber security, the agreements included cooperation in the oil and gas sector, film-co- production as well as amendments to an air transport pact.

Raw footage: Prime Minister Modi receives Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the Delhi airport

As Prime Minister Modi modernizes India’s manufacturing based, he sees Israel as a key innovation partner. Israeli companies have been highly supportive of Indian Prime Minister’s ‘Make in India’ initiative to secure and create industrial jobs. Trade barriers and India’s bureaucratic regulations have kept much of the trade potential unexplored. Bilateral trade between the two countries has fluctuated between $4 to 5 billion in recent years.

Meanwhile, the bilateral trade between Israel and China crossed $11 billion in 2017.

Trade between India and Israel can reach the same level “if the bilateral trade is extended to all relevant sectors and the market becomes more accessible” to small and medium-size companies from both the countries, argues Benjamin Grossman, a leading Israeli corporate lawyer and member of the visiting prime ministerial delegation, told Legal Insurrection.

India’s Commerce Ministry agreed to open a new round of trade talks with Israel. “A delegation from the commerce ministry will actually go next month for discussions on trade,” a senior Indian official told reporters. Years of deliberations over a proposed free trade agreement have yet to yield conclusive results.

Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is accompanied by a 130-member business delegation, wants to see an increase in exports to India by 25 percent in next three years. He is expected to highlight that focus when he visits India’s financial capital Mumbai and Prime Minister Modi’s home state of Gujarat, country’s leading industrial hub.

Video: Joint Press Statement by Prime Ministers Modi and Netanyahu:


[Cover image via YouTube]