Netanyahu Hails New Era of Friendship With India; Bilateral Agreements Signed

The two leaders discussed the advancement of partnership in a number of fields ■ Israeli team working to salvage recently terminated $500 million missile deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at his ceremonial reception in New Delhi, India, January 15, 2018.
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NEW DELHI – Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian premier Narendra Modi met in New Delhi on Monday, in what Netanyahu hailed as the beginning of a new era of friendship between the two nations. Nine bilateral agreements were signed as part of the meetings, including in the fields of oil, gas, renewable energy and cyber cooperation.

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) speaks as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looks on during a press conference at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on January 15, 2018.
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According to a source in the prime minister's delegation, among the issues discussed between the two leaders were greater recognition of Israel's status as a strategic partner of India and an increase in trade and investments by India in Israel.

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In addition, the advancement of security deals and regional security issues were also discussed. 

Netanyahu thanked Narendra for his "exceptional friendship and hospitality," and said he was "deeply moved" by the ceremony honoring his visit. The prime minister called Narendra a "revolutionary leader," who had revolutionized the relationship between the two nations.

The Israeli prime minister said that three things linked the two nations: An ancient past, a vibrant present, and the seizing of a positive future. He also commented that both countries "know the pain of terror," but they "fight back but never give in."

Nine deals were signed at following Netanyahu and Modi's private meeting including Memorandums of Understanding in the fields of gas, oil, renewable energy and cyber security. Among the participants was National Security Council Chairman Meir Ben-Shabat.

In addition, a joint industrial research and development deal and an update to an aviation agreement were signed, as were agreements in health and space exploration.

The meeting at Hyperbad House will be followed by meetings between accompanying Israeli trade representatives and their Indian counterparts.

Netanyahu's six-day visit, which began on Saturday, marks the 25th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral relations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara walk after paying respect at the Mahatma Gandhi memorial at Raj Ghat in New Delhi, India, January 15, 2018
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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu inspects an honor guard at his ceremonial reception in New Delhi, India, January 15, 2018.
STR/AP
Israeli PM Netanyahu's written message at Mahatma Gandhi memorial site, New Delhi, India, January 15, 2017.

Prior to the meeting Netanyahu visited the memorial site of late Indian statesman Mahatma Gandhi.

"Such grandeur and simplicity in honor of modern India's founding father, one of the world's great spiritual leaders. In deep friendship and respect," read Netanyahu's personal message written at the memorial in New Delhi.

Aside from Israeli diplomatic officials, Netanyahu is accompanied by 130 Israeli businesspeople representing some 100 companies in the cybersecurity, military, water, energy, agriculture, health and food industries also.

The business delegation is expected to attend a forum of CEOs, for which Modi will also be present, two seminars with representatives of Indian companies and tours of major Indian corporations. The agenda also includes a meeting on start-ups and a meeting between Netanyahu and senior Indian businesspeople in Mumbai.

Members of the Israeli delegation are working to salvage the recently terminated $500 million anti-tank Spike missile deal. On Sunday, Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat met with his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval to discuss security ties between the two countries, including the sale of Spike missiles, which was cancelled by India.

In an interview with the Indian media, Netanyahu was asked if the deal's cancellation will impact on the defense relationship between the two countries. Netanyahu responded, saying that he hopes the visit will help to solve the problem, adding that he thinks there's a good chance that they'll be able to reach a fair solution on the matter by the end of the visit.