Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today began his official visit to India - his first visit there as prime minister. In 2004, late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon became the first Israeli prime minister to visit India. Relations between Israel and India were cold or non-existent until 1992, but have gradually warmed since then. In recent years, and especially since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Israel in the summer of 2017, relations between the two countries have become very cordial, accompanied by a personal relationship between Netanyahu and Modi, including gestures of friendship on both sides.
A surprise awaited Netanyahu today at the airport; Modi decided to abandon protocol by receiving him personally. Netanyahu plans to stay in Delhi, Mumbai, and Gujarat, and will be personally accompanied by Modi part of the time, as Netanyahu did on Modi's visit to Israel.
Netanyahu is also scheduled to meet with Indian President Ram Nath Kovind and Indian Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj. He will also meet with a forum of CEOs from major Indian companies, take part in the Raisina international geopolitical forum, and meet leaders of the Jewish communities in India. In a more colorful part of his visit, Netanyahu will meet with leaders of the Indian cinema industry (Bollywood) and sign a cooperation agreement for strengthening ties between the two countries' cinema industries through government support grants for joint Indian-Israeli productions.
Netanyahu is also due to sign bilateral agreements in oil and gas exploration, production, and research. Among other things, the agreement includes a decision on joint activity by the two countries on development of oil exploration startups. The two countries will also sign a civil aviation agreement for revising flight rates and developing air services between Israel and India. Another agreement to be signed is in the cyber industry. The two countries will agree to expand and bolster cooperation in this sphere, develop joint training programs, and promote conferences and academic meetings between the corresponding industries in India and Israel.
When Netanyahu landed in India, he immediately went with Modi to a ceremony for naming Teen Murti Square after the city of Haifa. The square was dedicated to the Indian soldiers who were killed in WWI in the battle for liberating Haifa from the Turks. At the ceremony, Netanyahu said, "This gesture highlights the special connection and common history between Israel and India."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on January 14, 2018
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