22:50 GMT +318 August 2018
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    A man holds flags of India and Israel before installing them on a lamp post ahead of the visit of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Ahmedabad, India January 15, 2018

    India, Israel Explore New Avenues of Cooperation to Consolidate Ties

    © REUTERS / Amit Dave
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    For the first time, Israel has invited Indian companies to explore oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean. The nations have also agreed to speed up dialogue on a free trade pact and a bilateral investment treaty.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's ongoing India visit marks the culmination of the 25th-anniversary celebrations of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries that began with the opening of an Indian embassy in Tel Aviv in January 1992. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, who landed in New Delhi, accompanied by a 130-member strong business delegation, met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday and the duo addressed the India-Israel Business Summit in New Delhi. They later delivered a joint statement.

    READ MORE: India Seeking to Strengthen Defense Partnership With Israel — Foreign Office

    "There is new energy and purpose that has invigorated our ties over the last few years. It will help take our cooperation to greater heights. We stand on the cusp of a new chapter in India-Israel relations, driven by our people & mutual opportunities for the betterment of lives," Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said while addressing the summit.

    The Israeli Prime Minister, on his part, called Modi a "revolutionary" leader who is not only "catapulting" India to a brighter future, but "revolutionizing" the India-Israel relationship.

    The India-Israel Business Summit witnessed the signing of nine pacts for strengthening cooperation in diverse fields. Apart from resolving to strengthen collaboration in the traditional spheres of agriculture, water, space and innovation, Israel has given initial approval for Indian energy companies to explore oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean, in the first such move by Indian firms in that region.

    Apart from nine pacts, India's NASSCOM and startup accelerator MassChallenge Israel committed to a scholarship support of $5,000 each for up to 10 Indian startups. NASSCOM is a trade association of Indian information technology and business process outsourcing industry.

    ​Meanwhile, India has assured Israeli firms that it will remove the existing bottlenecks in doing business with India.

    "I assure you to resolve all problems and make things easier and better for Israeli companies to do business in India," Secretary in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ramesh Abhishek said during the India-Israel Business Innovation forum meeting in New Delhi.

    ​India received total FDI of USD 130 million from Israel during April 2000 to September 2017 period. The bilateral trade between the countries increased to USD 5 billion in 2016-17 from USD 4.91 billion in the previous fiscal, according to official statistics.

    The Israeli Prime Minister also called on Indian President Ramnath Kovind on Monday. In his official statement about the visit, the Indian President said the political understanding, security cooperation, and technology partnerships are key pillars of strategic engagement between India and Israel.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit reciprocates that of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Tel Aviv in July 2017, the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Israel. The two countries have warmed up to each other in the last two decades with Israel emerging as one of India's major defense supplier, security partner, and source of important technologies in diverse areas including water, agriculture, energy, information technology and innovation. However, India's relationship with Israel cannot be divorced from the larger West Asian geopolitical canvas. The recent vote at the UN over US President Donald Trump's declaration of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel saw New Delhi voting with larger global consensus against the proposal.  Nevertheless, the Israeli Prime Minister said the vote would not materially affect the bilateral relationship between India and Israel, in an interview to the India Today group on the eve of his visit to New Delhi.

    "Yes, naturally we are disappointed but this visit is a testimony that our relationship is moving on so many fronts forward… I don't think one vote affects a general trend you can see in many other votes and these visit," Benjamin Netanyahu said in the interview.

    The Israeli Prime Minister has a string of other engagements in India including a visit to the iconic Taj Mahal — a Mughal era architectural marvel counted among the wonders of the modern world. In Mumbai, he will visit the Chabad House where he will pay homage to the four Israeli nationals who were gunned down by terrorists from the Pakistan-based militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba when they took India's financial capital under siege on November 26, 2008. Netanyahu will also be interacting with a number of Indian film personalities during his stay in Mumbai.

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    Tags:
    Narendra Modi, oil and gas, bilateral relations, cooperation, Benjamin Netanyahu, India, Israel, Mumbai, Tel Aviv
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