Rajnath Singh in Israel to bolster bilateral ties

Rajnath Singh in Israel to bolster bilateral ties

Vowing to strengthen India's "very warm" relations with Israel, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has arrived here for his first bilateral visit abroad to discuss issues like security cooperation and fight against terror.

"'Shalom' to the people of Israel. Reached Tel Aviv last night. Shall meet the Prime Minister Mr Benjamin Netanyahu today in the evening," Singh tweeted after reaching Israel.

"India and Israel share very warm & cordial bilateral relations. We look forward to strengthen it further," he said.

Singh was scheduled to arrive here yesterday morning but had to reschedule his plans after his flight from Monaco was cancelled due to bad weather. The Minister was in Monaco to attend Interpol's General Assembly.

Despite the unexpected change in Singh's plans, the Israeli government rolled out a red carpet in welcoming him with Netanyahu, Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich re-adjusting their tight schedules to meet him.

Singh started his Israel visit by visiting Holy sites in the old city of Jerusalem.The Home Minister then left for a helicopter tour of the Jordan Valley and Israel's northern and southern region with National Security Adviser Yossi Cohen to get a sense of the security situation in the country.

Cohen had recently met Singh in New Delhi and discussed "common challenges" faced by the two countries and their solutions, emphasising his country's "willingness to expand cooperation in all fields and in any level."

"India is a very important ally for us and we view the Home Minister's visit as very significant. We are looking forward to fruitful discussions that will strengthen cooperation between the two countries," a senior Israeli official said.

It will be the first visit of an Indian Home Minister to Israel since June 2000 when L K Advani visited Jerusalem, marking an upsurge in bilateral cooperation.

Singh's visit comes close on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's meeting with Netanyahu on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September.

India and Israel have signed three agreements related to homeland security which cover important areas such as cooperation in preventing organised crime, human trafficking, cyber crimes, money laundering, counter-terrorism and fight against spread of fake currency notes.

India is Israel's largest purchaser of defence equipments and the Jewish state is the second largest supplier of arms and armaments for New Delhi, next only to Russia.

Singh will also try to impress upon Israel Defence Industries to take advantage of the new policies to manufacture in India as part of Prime Minister Modi's 'Make in India' initiative and assure them of a simple regulatory framework to obtain clearances within a stipulated time frame.

Meanwhile, fear gripped the streets of Jerusalem following two terror attacks by Palestinians who rammed their cars into waiting pedestrians yesterday.
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