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Indian, Israeli prime ministers discuss defence, trade

New York, Sep 29 With India-Israel ties on the upswing after Narendra Modi’s election, the prime ministers of the two countries met Sunday to discuss boosting trade as well as cooperation in areas ranging from agriculture and water management to defence and cyber security.

An official statement issued by the Indian Prime Minister’s Office said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu invited Modi to Israel.

“The two leaders reviewed the robust relationship, and rapidly growing trade. They also discussed how ties could be further expanded,” the statement said.

Sunday’s meeting was the first high-level meeting between India and Israel since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s 2003 visit to India. As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi had visited Israel in 2006 and Netanyahu invited Modi to visit Israel again, this time as the prime minister.

Israel also briefed the Indian prime minister on its perception of the situation in West Asia.

“Defence ties and cooperation in the field of computer software, and cyber security were also discussed,” the statement said.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said that in discussing defence relations, Modi told Netanyahu about his “Make in India” programme and pointed out that 49 percent investment was possible in defence industries.

Modi made a pitch for Israeli investments and the two prime ministers discussed boosting bilateral trade that now stands at about $6 billion.

Israel has developed methods and technologies for farming in arid land and for water management. Modi wanted more cooperation in these areas, Akbaruddin said.

Modi also wanted Israel to work with India in water management and solid waste treatment in urban areas as part of his vision for smart cities.

While discussing cooperation in the fields of software and computers, Netanyahu mentioned that when he had worked in areas relating to technology he found in California that a large number of workers were Indians or Israelis.

Modi outlined his vision of waste water management and solid waste management in 500 towns across India.

The Jerusalem Post quoted Netanyahu telling Modi “sky is the limit” for relations between the two countries.

“We are two old people, some of the oldest civilizations on earth. But also two democracies, proud of our tradition, but also eager to seize the future,” Netanyahu said.

“I believe that if we work together, it will be for the benefit of both our peoples.”

Modi told him – and an earlier delegation of Jewish leaders from the American Jewish Congress – that India is proud of its tradition of tolerance towards Jews and and absence of discrimination against them. Netanyahu and the Jewish leaders acknowledged that anti-Semitism was never in India.

A sign of the ties between India and Israel coming closer is the refusal of the Modi government to condemn Israel in parliament for its actions in the Gaza as demanded by the Congress and some other parties. This led to a walkout from the Lok Sabha by the Congress and two other parties.

Modi has not held meetings with Palestinian or other West Asian leaders during his visit here.

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