Modi's visit has huge symbolic significance: Israeli ministry
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Israel from July 4 to 6, the first-ever an Indian Prime Minister, will have huge symbolic significance, the Israeli Foreign Ministry said on Monday.
Addressing the media here, Mark Sofer, Deputy Director General of the Asia and Pacific Division of the Foreign Ministry and former Ambassador to India, said the visit -- coming as it does after 25 years of establishment of diplomatic ties -- will have huge symbolic significance.
"Yes, it is crucial that this visit is taking place," Sofer said. "There will be concrete ramifications of this visit."
He said his ministry has put "enormous emphasis" on this visit.
According to Sofer, both countries have identified agriculture and water management as a crucial area of the future of the bilateral relationship and a joint strategic partnership will be set up in this regard. Innovation and space cooperation are other areas of cooperation.
Sofer also said that during the course of the visit, an India-Israel CEOs Forum will also be set up.
Israel's Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon said that the trajectory of the relationship between the two countries has grown enormously.
"During this visit, we will look to the next 25 years of the relationship," Carmon said.
Stating that Israel would represent a new kind of diplomacy by looking at the priorities of the Indian government, the Ambassador said this will include developmental diplomacy and digital diplomacy.
He said Israel has set up 15 centres of excellence in the field of agriculture in India.
Regarding Jews of Indian origin living in Israel, Sofer said there are now second generation Indian Jews in Israel.
Most of the Indian-origin Jews that Modi will meet during his visit were born in Israel, he noted.
Carmon said when Modi met Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu in Singapore in 2015 during the funeral of the city-state's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the Indian leader told Netanyahu that the Jewish community played an important role in the relationship between the two countries.
"Indian Jews in Israel are very proud of their Indian roots," he said.
To a question on cooperation in the fight against terrorism, Sofer said that both countries faced common challenges.
"What is needed is concerted international action. India is no exception," he stated.
He also said that Israel supported India in its fight against terrorism sponsored by Pakistan.
Giving an overview of Modi's programme, Sofer said that soon after his arrival in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, the Indian leader will visit an agricultural centre before meeting Netanyahu over a private dinner.
On Wednesday, the two Prime Ministers will lead delegation-level talks that may well last four hours.
Modi will also meet Israel's Leader of Opposition and later address a 4,000-strong gathering of Jews of Indian origin the same day.
On Thursday, the two Prime Ministers will fly by helicopter to Haifa where both will lay wreaths at the Indian Cemetery that contains the graves of Indian soldiers who died during the First World War defending Haifa.
The two leaders will travel back to Tel Aviv by car and on the way stop at a beach where Modi will be shown a state-of-the-art desalination plant.
Back in Tel Aviv, the two leaders will interact with Indian and Israeli business leaders, Sofer said.
India, Israel can cooperate more closely against terrorism: Modi
Describing terrorism as a global menace, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is set to visit Israel from Tuesday, has said that New Delhi and Tel Aviv can "cooperative even more closely" in battling terror.
Modi also told the newspaper Israel Hayom in an interview that his three-day visit to Israel, the first by any Indian Prime Minister, had its own significance and would further strengthen bilateral ties.
Asked if Israel and India were facing the same threat of terrorism, Modi replied: "Terrorism is a global menace. India and Israel are not immune to it either. We are in full agreement that elements which perpetrate violence on innocent people should not be allowed to flourish.
"Cross-border terrorism is a major challenge for us. Divisive forces across our border are trying to disrupt the unity of our nation. These troublemakers often misuse religion as a tool to misguide youth in our country and our regions.
"Terrorism should not be equated with any particular religion. India and Israel could cooperate even more closely and complement each other's efforts to fight with the menace of terrorism," the Indian leader added.
Modi was asked if his visit was a reset or an upgrade in India-Israel relations.
"My visit has its own significance... I am confident (it) will lead to further strengthening of our relations in different areas and also open up new priorities for cooperation," he said.
The Indian leader added that he was sure to visit Jerusalem.
India, Modi said, believed in a two-state solution in which both Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist peacefully.
"A final-status agreement should respect the sentiments and address demands of all affected parties. The key to finding a solution to this issue lies with the affected parties.
"India supports all efforts to find an acceptable solution to all the pending issues, including Jerusalem."
Modi recalled that he had visited Israel in 2006 as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. "I am happy to return after more than a decade, and I look forward to seeing the developments and advances Israel has made in this time."
He said Israel was perceived in India as a technological powerhouse, a country that has braved many odds.
"The way you transformed yourself from being a water-deficient country to a water-surplus country; the manner in which you made your deserts bloom, are all amazing accomplishments. All these images have made a deep imprint on my mind."
Modi said India-Israel ties had always been strong, and over the years they had been continuously expanding and diversifying.
Asked if his decision to visit Israel implied a more pro-Israel posture in the UN, he said: "Our positions at the UN are based on the merit of specific issues and driven by our core values and principles... India is not in favour of singling out any country at the UN."
The Indian leader said he was was not looking at a traditional import-export relationship with Israel.
"It is more than a buyer-seller relationship. We are more interested in a tech-based partnership with an emphasis on 'Make in India.'
The Israeli industry has been fairly positive to many of our flagship schemes like 'Clean Ganga.' There is tremendous scope for deepening the extent of partnership in India's flagship schemes."