NEW DELHI: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived here today on a "historic" six-day visit during which he will hold extensive talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, who received him at the airport, setting aside protocol.
Modi welcomed Netanyahu with a hug upon his arrival.
"Welcome to India, my friend PM @netanyahu! Your visit to India is historic and special. It will further cement the close friendship between our nations," Modi tweeted in English and Hebrew.
Natanyahu, who arrived here with his wife Sara, and a high-level business delegation, tweeted, "We have landed in India. Thank you to my good friend Narendra Modi for the warm welcome!" Ahead of his departure from Israel, Netanyahu said, "We are strengthening ties between Israel and this important global power (India)." "This serves our security, economic, trade and tourism interests, as well as many other areas. This is a great blessing for the state of Israel," he said.
According to Israeli officials, Netanyahu was pleasantly surprised by Modi welcoming him at the airport.
"I very much appreciate the gesture," Netanyahu was quoted as saying by officials.
Modi and Netanyahu are known to share a warm personal rapport.
During Modi's visit to Israel last year, Netanyahu had received the Indian prime minister at the airport.
Netanyahu's visit to India is only the second by an Israeli prime minister and comes after a gap of 15 years.
Former prime minister Ariel Sharon had visited India in 2003.
Modi and Netanyahu later attended a ceremony to rename Teen Murti Chowk in central Delhi as Teen Murti-Haifa Chowk.
They also laid a wreath and signed the visitor's book at the memorial.
The three bronze statues at Teen Murti represent the Hyderabad, Jodhpur and Mysore Lancers who were part of the 15 Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade. The brigade carried out the victorious assault on the fortified city of Haifa on September 23, 1918, during World War I.
The renaming gesture underscores the special link and the common history between Israel and India, Netanyahu said after the event, according to Israeli officials.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj also called on the Israeli prime minister.
During the meeting, Netanyahu told Swaraj that he was overwhelmed by the warmth he received upon his arrival here.
He also said that his visit can catapult bilateral ties to the next level.
Later, Modi also hosted a private dinner for Netanyahu and his wife.
During Netanyahu's visit, which comes days after India voted against Israel at the UN on the Jerusalem issue, several MoUs, including in the field of defence, oil and gas, renewable energy, amended protocol for airports, cyber security, and co-production of films and documentaries are expected to be signed between the two sides.
India had last month joined 127 other countries to vote in the United Nations General Assembly in favour of a resolution opposing the recent decision of US President Donald Trump to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
During his stay, Netanyahu will also visit Gujarat and Mumbai.
On January 15, Netanyahu will meet the Indo-Israeli CEO forum here and address a separate business event. He will deliver a speech at the Raisina Dialogue on January 16.
Netanyahu will also call on President Ram Nath Kovind.
He will leave for Ahmedabad on the morning of January 17.
In Ahmedabad, he will visit the Sabarmati Ashram. Modi and Netanyahu will also visit the Center of Excellence in Vadrad and inaugurate a Center of Excellence for date palms in Bhuj via video conferencing.
The Israeli prime minister will have a number of engagements in Mumbai on January 18.
The Israeli embassy had said that Netanyahu will meet with Jewish community leaders and select members of the Indian business community in Mumbai.
It had said he will reach out to Bollywood in an exclusive "Shalom Bollywood" event.
In Mumbai, he will also attend a ceremony at the Chabad House, which will be attended by Moshe Holtzberg.
Fondly known as Moshe, the 11-year-old's parents were killed in the Chabad House during the 26/11 terror strike, which had come under attack.