Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his “path-breaking” visit to Israel on Tuesday with his counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu extending an extraordinary welcome and asserting that “even sky is not the limit” in the cooperation between the two countries.
Modi, the first Indian prime minister to visit the Jewish nation, was received at the Ben Gurion airport by Netanyahu who said in Hindi, “aapka swagat hai, mere dost” (welcome, my friend).
“It is truly a historic visit,” said Netanyahu who broke protocol by being at the airport, an honour which previously was accorded only to the US President and the Pope. “We love India,” he said.
Hailing Modi as “a great leader of India and a great world leader”, Netanyahu said, “we have been waiting for the last 70 years” for a visit by an Indian prime minister.
The two prime ministers, who hugged each other three times, described each other as “my friend” several times.
In their brief prepared speeches, they vowed to give a push to the bilateral relationship in all aspects and jointly deal with the common threats like terrorism.
Netanyahu’s entire Cabinet was present at the airport to receive Modi, who was wearing a cream colour ‘band gala’ suit and a dark blue handkerchief in the pocket. Modi was also accorded a Guard of Honour after an Israeli military band played the national anthems of the two countries.
“I remember what you told me in our first meeting - when it comes to India and Israel relations, the sky is the limit. But now, prime minister, let me add even sky is not the limit. We are also cooperating in space,” Netanyahu told Modi.
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Talking about the vast possibilities of cooperation between the two countries, he said, “We can do even more, even better together.”
Appreciating the special welcome accorded to him, Modi spoke a few words in Hebrew, starting with “Shalom (hello), I am happy to be here.”
“I thank my friend prime minister Netanyahu for receiving me (at the airport),” said Modi, while describing his three-day visit here as “path-breaking”.
“It is my honour to be the the first ever Indian prime to undertake this ground-breaking visit to Israel,” he said.
“Building a strong and resilient relationshp with Israeal will be my intent and focus...We have to secure our societies against the common threat of terrorism,” Modi said.
He said his visit was about the strength of the two societies and their strong partnership. “Together, we can do even more and even better (for India-Israel ties),” he added.
Noting that India is an old civilisation but a young nation, Modi said, “We have a talented and skilled youth, who are our driving force.”
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Describing Israel as an “important development partner”, he said, “This is an exciting journey that we will undertake together, for the good of our people and our society.”
Modi said his visit celebrates the strength of centuries-old links between the two societies and “based on these bonds, our partnership has mantained a strong and sustained upswing since the establishment of full relationship, diplomatic relations, 25 years ago.”