India, Israel declare “dawn of a new era” in bilateral relations with 9 new agreements

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described his visit to India as the “dawn of a new era” in bilateral relations as the two sides signed nine agreements in energy, cybersecurity, investments and other areas.

Netanyahu, who arrived on Sunday for his first visit to the country, met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

Their discussions focussed on defence, trade and counter-terrorism, as well as newer areas of cooperation to broaden their partnership.

“Our discussions today were marked by convergence to accelerate our engagement and scale up our partnership,” Modi said alongside Netanyahu following the talks.

The countries planned to strengthen the areas of cooperation which touch the lives of people, such as agriculture, science and technology and security, Modi said.

India and Israel signed nine agreements in the areas of oil and gas, renewable energy, defence, aviation, cybersecurity, film co-production and investments.

“We are ushering today a new era in our relations. We have had diplomatic relations for 25 years but something different is happening now, because of your leadership and because of our partnership,” Netanyahu said to Modi.

Netanyahu, accompanied by a large trade delegation, is due to attend a joint business summit Monday evening with chief executives from India.

Netanyahu discussed Israel’s cutting-edge technologies in agriculture and water management that New Delhi has expressed interest in, Indian diplomat Vijay Gokhale said.

During the visit, the leaders have repeatedly referred to each other as “good friends.”

India has long-standing ties with the Arab world and has supported the Palestinian cause for decades.

The country established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992.

Bilateral ties have warmed since then, with Israel emerging as the leading defence supplier to India.

In July, Modi became the first sitting Indian head of state to visit Israel. Netanyahu reciprocated that visit, and is the first Israeli prime minister to visit India in 15 years, after Ariel Sharon in 2003.

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Netanyahu called Modi a “revolutionary leader,” for being the first Indian leader to visit Israel “in 3,000 years,” adding the visit was “truly historic”.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which came to power in 2014, has been pushing for stronger ties with Israel.

Earlier Monday, the Israeli leader was given a ceremonial reception at the presidential palace and later visited a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s freedom movement.

Netanyahu is due to visit the Taj Mahal and make a public appearance in Modi’s home state of Gujarat before concluding his visit in the financial capital Mumbai.

In his statement, Netanyahu referred to the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which a Jewish centre was one of the targets.

Netanyahu said: “Indians and Israelis know too well the pain of terrorist attacks,

“We remember the horrific savagery in Mumbai. We grit our teeth, we fight back, we never give in.”

The Israeli premier’s delegation comprises 12-year-old Moshe Holtzberg, who lost his parents in the attack on Mumbai’s Chabad House.

India’s vote in favour of a UN resolution against U.S. President Donald Trump’s move to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital led to tension in the relationship in recent weeks.

New Delhi also cancelled a 500-million-dollar deal to purchase antitank missiles from Israel.

While Indian officials said defence cooperation featured on Monday’s talks, they declined to share details.

In an interview with the domestic media, Netanyahu said he was “disappointed” by India’s refusal to support recognition of Jerusalem as his country’s capital.

The Israeli leader asserted it would not affect relations between the countries, reiterating that the India-Israel partnership was a “marriage made in heaven”.