Netanyahu arrives on a six-day visit to India

Netanyahu arrives on a six-day visit to India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi received his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu as he landed at the Palam airport in New Delhi on Sunday for a six-day visit to India.

Modi made a departure from protocol and received Netanyahu at the airport, thus reciprocating a gesture the Israeli prime minister had extended to him when he himself had landed in Tel Aviv to commence his landmark visit to the West Asian nation in July.

"Welcome to India, Prime Minister Netanyahu! Your visit to India is special, historic. This visit will strengthen the close ties between our countries," Modi tweeted in Hebrew.

"Thank You...to my good friend, Indian Prime Minister @narendramodi, who surprised me with a personal welcome at the airport upon my arrival in India. Together we will bring the relations between our countries to new heights!" Netanyahu tweeted.

The two prime ministers drove straight from the airport to Teenmurti Chowk to pay homage to the soldiers of Mysore Lancers, Jodhpur Lancers and Hyderabad Lancers, who had fought for the allied forces to wrest control of Haifa – now a major port city on Mediterranean Coast of Israel – from the Ottoman Empire in September 1918 during the World War I. Teenmurti Chowk was formally renamed as Teenmurti-Haifa Chowk to mark the centenary of the historic Battle of Haifa.

Modi, Netanyahu and his wife Sara placed wreaths before the three bronze statues, representing the soldiers of Hyderabad, Jodhpur and Mysore Lancers.

"Salute to the great Indian traditions of selfless sacrifice and penance," Modi wrote on the Visitors' Book, noting the valour and sacrifice of the soldiers from India in the Battle of Haifa in particular and in the two World Wars in general.

Netanyahu held his first official meeting in New Delhi later in the afternoon when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on him. Modi also hosted a private dinner in honour of Netanyahu.

The two prime ministers will again formally meet at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Monday.

The two sides are expected to ink pacts to step up cooperation in the fields of energy, space technology, cybersecurity and production of films.

The two prime ministers are also expected to discuss ways to step up defence and counter-terrorism cooperation.

Netanyahu is accompanied by a business delegation comprising 130 executives representing over 100 companies.

He and Modi will address the second Israel-India CEOs' Forum meeting on Monday.
Netanyahu's maiden visit to New Delhi will mark the end of the celebration of 25th anniversary of the establishment of India-Israel diplomatic relations in 1992.

Ariel Sharon, who visited New Delhi in 2003, was the first Israeli prime minister to visit India.

Ezer Weizmann's visit to New Delhi in 1997 was the first by an Israeli President. Reuven Rivlin, the current president of the West Asian nation, visited India in 2016.

Pranab Mukherjee was the first President of India to visit Israel in 2015. Modi's visit last year was the first visit by a prime minister of India to Israel.

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