Indicating the relationship between the two great nation’s leaders due to meet in a few months, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “friend” whose “historic visit” was being ‘eagerly’ awaited by the Israeli people.
On Tuesday, PM Modi had wished Mr. Netanyahu on the event of the Jewish festival of Passover to memorialize the flight of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.
“Thank you, my friend, for your kind holiday greeting. The people of Israel eagerly await your historic visit,” Mr. Netanyahu tweeted, which was re-tweeted by the PMO.
As a PM this visit would be the 1st time to Modi that an Indian Prime Minister would step on Israeli land since 1992 when the two countries built full diplomatic relations. But PM Modi and Mr. Netanyahu did meet on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2014. It was then, the 1st meeting of the Prime Ministers of the two countries in over a decade.
The central government has not declared the dates for PM Modi’s visit but the preparation for the visit has been going on for months. Last month, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval was also in Israel to fast-track finalization of agreements to be signed during the prime ministerial visit.
On the cards are multiple defense deals for the Spike anti-tank missiles for the Indian army and Barak-8 air defense missiles for the navy valued at $ 1.5 billion, a Bloomberg report said. Last week, Israel Aerospace Industries announced a $ 2 billion mega missile pact that will give Indian forces an advanced defense system of medium-range surface-to-air missiles; the mega missile deal has been called Israel’s biggest defense contract.
Israel is already the 3rd largest weapons supplier to India over the last 3 years. But the new deals central ahead of PM Modi’s visit also show that New Delhi didn’t have any doubts about closer relations with Israel.
PM Modi, who had traveled to Israel in 2006 when he was the Gujarat Chief Minister, was widely expected to make the visit much earlier. Instead, President Pranab Mukherjee traveled to Israel in 2015 and addressed Israeli parliament too. It was during this visit that Mr. Netanyahu had spoken about his earlier interactions with PM Modi. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj followed it up with a visit in 2016.