Israel and India signed nine agreements on Monday in the areas of energy production, cyber cooperation, space and aviation, direct mutual investment and cinema production, ushering in a “dawn of a new era,” according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in bilateral relations between the two countries.
Netanyahu is in the midst of a six-day state visit to India this week, leading a trade delegation of some 130 businesspeople and representatives of defense companies to the subcontinent. The trip is aimed at deepening political, cultural and business ties with India, and hopefully salvage a $500 million missile deal canceled by the Indian Defense Ministry last month with Israeli defense tech company Rafael Advanced Systems.
The Israeli leader and his wife Sara were warmly welcomed in India on Sunday upon arrival, with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly breaking protocol to greet the couple himself on the tarmac in New Delhi and embracing Netanyahu. Netanyahu and Modi have also used a number of superlatives to describe each other in public exchanges in person and on social media, including on Monday when the Indian leader called Netanyahu “my friend Bibi,” as he’s called in Israel, and Netanyahu referring to Modi as “a true revolutionary.”
The comments were made after Netanyahu and his wife were received at the presidential palace with elaborate ceremony which included an honor guard of 100 mounted soldiers, for a meeting with Modi.
In a joint press conference following the meeting, Netanyahu thanked Modi for the “exceptional friendship and hospitality” he has shown him and his delegation and told him he was “a revolutionary leader in the best sense of the word ‘revolution.'”
“You are revolutionizing India. You are catapulting this magnificent state into the future and you have revolutionized the relationship between Israel and India,” Netanyahu said, adding that the two countries were “ushering today a new era in our relations.”
Both leaders were present earlier in the day when nine memorandums of understanding were signed including:
- an agreement on cybersecurity cooperation and the development of training and proficiency programs in the field; cooperation in the oil and gas sector that will strengthen joint work in exploration, production and research and development, as well as advancing academic ties and promoting related startups
- a protocol on amendments to a 1994 air transport agreement that will adjust the cost of flights and strengthen bilateral cooperation in developing air links
- an agreement between the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) and the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology for space cooperation
- an agreement on film co-production “granting joint government support funds for Israeli-Indian productions,” according to a statement by the Government Press Office
- an agreement on maritime transport that “will encourage greater business between the shipping organizations of India and Israel,” according to a joint statement;
The leaders also “welcomed the completion of all formalities for the launch of the India-Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund (I4F),” launched when Modi visited Israel in July, the first Indian head of government to do so since diplomatic relations were established in 1992. The project is a $40 million fund initiative to foster tech innovation and R&D in industrial development, and build strategic partnerships between Israeli and Indian innovators in areas like water conservation, using wastewater for agriculture, and desalination.
They also announced work on a five-year Joint Work Plan for strategic cooperation in agriculture and water.
“One of the things that Israel brings to this world of innovation is that we achieve more with less. More crops with less water, more energy with less expenditure of money. More with less. We want more, a lot more and we can do that even more productively by cooperating,” Netanyahu said, adding that Israel was “a fountainhead of innovation” and a “global force of technology.”
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India, he said, “abounds with creativity, with ingenuity, with scientists, with mathematicians and I think that when we join our respective talents together we can achieve tremendous things for our people.”
A moving welcome ceremony at the presidential palace in India – a great honor for the State of Israel! pic.twitter.com/VxqTlkfMZD
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) January 15, 2018
The two leaders are set to attend a business summit later Monday focused on expanding India-Israel economic cooperation further. Among Netanyahu’s delegation are members of 18 startups selected to participate in the Israel-India Global Innovation Challenge launched in July during Modi’s visit to Israel.
PM’s @netanyahu’s visit is a long anticipated moment in the history of India-Israel relations. Had fruitful talks with him and discussed ways to boost cooperation between India and Israel. https://t.co/4HZWXQwcPH pic.twitter.com/OVQdXefpD0
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) January 15, 2018
On Tuesday Netanyahu will visit the Taj Mahal, and give the keynote address at the “Raisina Dialogue,” an annual India geo-political conference, before embarking Wednesday on a trip with Modi to the Indian leader’s home state of Gujarat. The two are set to visit an Israeli “center of excellence” — one of at least 20 across the country — set up through the Indo-Israeli Agricultural Project (IIAP), a 10-year-old collaboration project between Indian and Israeli government agencies including MASHAV, Israel’s agency for international development cooperation.
On Wednesday, the Israeli premier will attend a memorial ceremony for the victims of the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008, during which more than a 160 people were killed. The attacks were carried out by groups of terrorists who laid a 60-hour siege on multiple targets, including the Chabad House in Mumbai, known as Nariman House, where they killed a Chabad emissary and his six-month pregnant wife and four others. The couple’s first child, a toddler at the time, survived the assault by hiding with his Indian nanny. The child and the nanny, both of whom live in Israel, are set to accompany Netanyahu on the visit to the house.
Later Thursday, Netanyahu and members of the delegation are set to attend a “Shalom Bollywood” event, greeting stars and executives India’s billion-dollar film industry, before departing back for Israel early Friday.