Netanyahu to begin India tour on Sunday

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi hold a joint press conference at the PM's official Jerusalem residence on July 4, 2017. (Photo: Avi Ohayon/GPO)

Prime Minister Netanyahu will travel to India with a trade delegation from Israel on Sunday, the six-day tour to include meetings with Indian political and security officials and to center on increasing trade and business between both countries.

Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed his upcoming India tour during a reception for the foreign press on Wednesday in Jerusalem, boasting on the “tremendous increase of relations on all fronts” between Israel and India.

When asked on Wednesday by a reporter on India’s recent vote in favor of the Jerusalem vote at the United Nations General Assembly on Jerusalem, the prime minister answered stating, “I would have preferred another vote, to be frank. But I don’t think it materially changes the tremendous flowering of relations between India and Israel. I think everybody can see that,” referring to increased relations and Modi’s visit to Israel in the summer of 2017, the first visit by a sitting Indian prime minister to the Jewish state.

During Modi’s visit, India and Israel signed numerous agreements in the areas of water, energy, security, space, research and academia, both leaders releasing the statement at the time “The natural partnership between India and Israel, formally elevated 25 years ago to full diplomatic relations, has grown stronger from year to year. The deep connection between our peoples reflects our many similarities in spirit, if not in size.”

On Israel’s increased diplomacy and cooperation with Latin America, Africa and Asia, the prime minister stated Wednesday, “I think you’re going to see an expansion of economic and other ties, regardless of this or that deal. Over time, I hope I’ll see also a reflection of that more often in the international, in the voting of India in international forums… we’d like to see that ultimately reflected also in international forums. It doesn’t nullify the fact that with India, with other countries in Asia, with countries in Latin America and Africa, there’s a tremendous increase of relations on all fronts. It just takes longer on the international front.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu will meet with Prime Minister Modi on Sunday evening, the first visit by a sitting Israeli prime minister to India since Ariel Sharon. They will hold a few meetings over the week centered on “water, agriculture, energy, culture, innovation [and] defense,” according to the Foreign Ministry Deputy Director- General for Asia Gilad Cohen.

The visit comes during final negotiations on an arms deal for Spike anti-tank guided missiles, a deal worth $500 million. Mixed reports claimed the deal was cancelled, Indian media reports claiming the deal is still in negotiations. India did confirm it would be purchasing 151 surface-to-surface missiles from Israel.

Israel Aerospace Industries and India’s Bharat Electronics Limited signed a $630 million dollar deal with India after years of negotiations. In May of 2017. The deal followed the Israel’s signing of its historic $2 billion arms deal with India- the largest arms deal made in Israel’s history.

Israel and India’s defense ministries have been in negotiations on numerous arms sales, as well as strategic cooperation and combatting anti-terrorism.

This article originally appeared on Behold Israel, January 11, 2018, and reposted with permission.