Signalling the bonding between the two leaders due to meet in a few months, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “friend” whose “historic visit” was being ‘eagerly’ awaited by the Israeli people.
On Tuesday, PM Modi had wished Mr Netanyahu on the occasion of Jewish festival of Passover to commemorate the flight of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery.
“Thank you, my friend, for your kind holiday greeting. The people of Israel eagerly await your historic visit,” Mr Netanyahu tweeted, which was re-tweeted by the PMO.
PM Modi’s visit would be the first time that an Indian Prime Minister would step on Israeli soil since 1992 when the two countries established full diplomatic relations. But PM Modi and Mr Netanyahu did meet on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2014. It was then, the first meeting of the Prime Ministers of the two countries in over a decade.
The government has not announced the dates for PM Modi’s visit but the groundwork for the visit has been going on for months. Last month, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval was also in Israel to fast-track finalisation of pacts to be signed during the prime ministerial visit.
On the cards are multiple defence deals for the Spike anti-tank missiles for the Indian army and Barak-8 air defence missiles for the navy valued at $ 1.5 billion, a Bloomberg report said. Last week, Israel Aerospace Industries announced a $ 2 billion mega missile pact that will give Indian forces an advanced defence system of medium-range surface-to-air missiles; the mega missile deal has been called Israel’s biggest defence contract.
Israel is already the third-largest arms supplier to India over the last three years. But the new deals being finalised ahead of PM Modi’s visit also indicate that New Delhi didn’t have any qualms about closer relations with Israel.
PM Modi, who had travelled to Israel in 2006 when he was the Gujarat Chief Minister, was widely expected to make the visit much earlier. Instead, President Pranab Mukherjee travelled to Israel in 2015 and addressed Israeli parliament too. It was during this visit that Mr Netanyahu had spoken about his earlier interactions with PM Modi. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj followed it up with a visit in 2016.