JERUSALEM: India and Israel will elevate their ties and sign several agreements during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit here, the first ever by an Indian premier, hailed as a "very significant step" in strengthening bilateral relations that are on a "constant upswing".
Modi's three-day visit beginning tomorrow is aimed at commemorating 25 years of establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries and will also see discussions between him and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu to explore ways to enhance cooperation in key strategic areas.
The two sides are expected to sign number of agreements in the field of innovation, development, science and technology and space.
Apart from boosting cooperation in the water and agriculture sectors, India and Israel will also discuss ways to strengthen people-to-people contact, air connectivity and investments.
During the visit, a deal with the Uttar Pradesh government is also likely to be signed to clean-up a patch of river Ganges apart from setting up of industrial research and development fund of USD 40 million.
Before the visit, the External Affairs ministry in New Delhi said it will provide an impetus for deeper bilateral engagement in areas of mutual interest.
Modi will be received by Netanyahu at the airport. This is a special gesture only accorded to the Pope or the US president. The Israeli prime minister will also host a dinner for Modi tomorrow.
Netanyahu will accompany Modi to most of the events, including the community reception on July 5.
Modi will also pay homage to Indian soldiers at the Indian Cemetery in Haifa.
Modi will also meet 26/11 Mumbai terror attack survivor Holtzberg Moshe, who was only two when he was saved by his Indian nanny Sandra Samuel. Moshe’s father Rabbi Gavriel and mother Rivkah were among eight Israeli nationals killed in the 2008 terror strike. Netanyahu earlier hailed Modi's visit as a "very significant step" in strengthening bilateral relations that are on a "constant upswing".
"Next week, the Indian Prime Minister, my friend, Narendra Modi will arrive in Israel, This is a historic visit to Israel. In the 70 years of the country's existence, no Indian Prime Minister has ever visited and this is further expression of the state of Israel's military, economic and diplomatic strength," Netanyahu had said.
"This is a very significant step in strengthening relations between the two countries," he had said.
The two leaders have already met twice on foreign soil on the sidelines of UN-related events and are said to be constantly in touch with each other over the phone. The defence ties between India and Israel have often drawn worldwide attention and acquired strategic dimensions. It is believed that Modi's visit would further solidify security ties as Israeli defence industries have shown greater inclination towards participating in joint ventures to give a boost to the National Democratic Alliance government's 'Make in India' campaign.
The Indian prime minister would also be meeting Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and the leader of opposition Isaac Herzog on July 5.
The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday approved major decisions to deepen Indo-Israel ties. Among the measures proposed include the establishment of a 40 million US dollars joint fund to encourage Israeli and Indian business cooperation, agreements permitting and extending incentives to Bollywood filmmakers looking to shoot in Israel, efforts to promote growth in tourism and a joint government project in the fields of water and agriculture.
Modi will not be travelling to neighbouring Palestine during the visit, a clear signal of de-hyphenation of its ties with the two West Asian nations.
President Pranab Mukherjee in 2015 and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in 2016 visited both the countries. Modi's visit will be the first by an Indian premier to Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Ezer Weizman visited India in 2003 and 1997 respectively. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin had also paid a visit to India in November last year.