Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began the fifth day of his six-day India tour with a ‘power breakfast’ with a select group of Indian business leaders and CEOs. Later he joined Prime Minister Nerendra Modi at the India-Israel Business Summit hosted at the iconic Taj Hotel, one the sites hit by the 2008 Mumbai terror attack.

Later in the day, he accompanied 11-year-old Moshe Holtzberg at Mumbai’s Nariman House and Chabad Center. Moshe’s father Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg and mother Rivka were killed by Islamic terrorists at the Nariman House in the 2008 terror attacks. During his July visit, Prime Minister Modi personally invited Moshe to visit India.

Prime Minister Netanyahu also unveiled a memorial to 166 people who were killed by Islamic terrorists in 2008 attacks.

Before traveling to Mumbai, Prime Minister Netanyahu spent a day with Prime Minister Modi in his home state of Gujarat where tens of thousands of Indians showed up to welcome the visiting Israeli leader.  Jerusalem-based new website Times of Israel reported the reception given to the visiting leader in the Indian city of Ahmadabad on Wednesday:

“In Ahmadebad, tens of thousands of people lined the street, some waving Israeli flags, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sped past, whizzing by massive billboards with his and Indian counterpart Narendra Modi’s faces plastered on them.

In rural Dev Dholera, curious farmers and others craned their necks to catch a glimpse of the prime ministers, and hundreds of young entrepreneurs and business people cheered the leaders like rock stars.

In Sabarkantha, villagers waved at the prime ministers’ helicopters as they came in to land in a former forest that had been cleared to make way for a helipad. Dancers in traditional dress did flips, and farmers told of how many rupees they had made after training at an Israel-funded agricultural center.

There was some positive developments in the field of defense cooperation as well, with India putting the $500 million deal to buy the Spike anti-tank guided missiles back on the table. Earlier this month, India’s Ministry of Defense unexpectedly announced its decision to cancel an agreement with the Israeli defense manufacturer Rafael, amid speculations that India wanted to develop the missile system ingeniously.

News agency Reuters reported latest development in the  anti-tank missile deal on Wednesday:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday during a tour of India he had been informed by the Indian government that it had decided to put a major anti-tank missile deal back on track.

Earlier this month, Israel’s state-owned defence contractor Rafael said India’s Ministry of Defence had cancelled the deal worth about $500 million to buy Spike anti-tank guided missiles.

“Following talks I have held with my friend, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Indian government has informed us that it is putting the Spike deal back on track. This is very important and there will be many more deals,” Netanyahu said in a brief video statement during his five-day visit to India.

India’s neighboring Islamic Republic of Pakistan has been rattled by growing Israel-India cooperation in defense and counter-terrorism. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister accused Israel and India of building an ‘anti-Islam nexus,’ several Pakistani newspapers reported.

Indian newspaper Business Standard covered Pakistani Foreign Minister’s statement:

Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Wednesday criticised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India, saying both India and Israel have anti-Islam nexus.

Asif, in an interview to a private channel, said that both the countries have a connection as they have occupied Muslim territories – India has occupied Kashmir, while Israel is occupying a vast area of Palestine, reported Radio Pakistan.

He further accused India of the mass killing of Muslims in Gujarat.

Both the U.S. and India have repeatedly accused Pakistan of harboring and sponsoring international terrorism. Just like al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden following the September 11 attacks, Pakistan is currently sheltering Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Last month, the Palestinian ‘Ambassador’ to Pakistan, Waleed Abu Ali, got into diplomatic hot water with India for sharing stage with the terror master-mind Saeed at an Islamist rally. The event was hosted by an alliance of Islamic parties to condemn the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The incident prompted bitter public response in India — given the fact that the country sided with the Palestinians and voted in favor of the UN resolution condemning the U.S. government’s decision on Jerusalem.

During the last phase of his visit that ends in India’s commercial capital Mumbai, Prime Minister Netanyahu will be focusing on improving trade ties with India.

Several leading Indian companies intend to set up innovation and research centers in Israel, Israel’s Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon was quoted saying by the Indian newspaper Hindustan Times on Thursday.

After impressive growth in last two decades, the bilateral trade between the two countries has fluctuated between 4-5 billion dollars in recent years. Israel’s trade volume with China, however, reached almost thrice that size in 2017.

Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to see a 25 percent increase in exports to India by 2020, Jerusalem Post reported ahead of the visit. Enhancing cooperation in technology and innovation will be key to driving up those numbers.

“We have to continue this process within our own countries but we have to bring the talents of Indians and Israelis together,” Prime Minister Netanyahu told Indian business leaders on Thursday. “I want you to know that you will be received in Israel with unbelievable warmth. I would say with tremendous affection and love. There is a deep and abiding respect for India, for the people of India, for the culture of India.”

As Israeli premier’s landmark visit comes to a close, question remains; can Israel and India translate the reservoir of goodwill between their peoples into a lasting source of growth and prosperity for both their countries and beyond.


[Cover image via YouTube]