Bennett to visit India next month to mark 30 years of diplomatic ties

Prime minister to meet with Indian leader Narendra Modi as the two nations seek to expand on increasingly close relations, will also meet local Jewish community

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) speaks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 2, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (left) speaks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 2, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is slated to pay an official visit to India next month to commemorate 30 years of full diplomatic relations between the two nations, his office said Saturday.

He is expected to depart on April 2 for the trip where he will meet with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Indian officials, as well as members of the local Jewish community.

“I am delighted to pay my first official visit to India at the invitation of my friend, Prime Minister Modi, and together we will continue leading the way for our countries’ relations,” Bennett said.

“The relations between our two unique cultures — the Indian culture and the Jewish culture — are deep, and they rely on deep appreciation and meaningful collaborations. There are many things we can learn from the Indians, and this is what we strive to do,” Bennett said, pledging to expand cooperation “to other areas, from innovation and technology, security and cyber, to agriculture and climate change.”

Bennett met with Modi on the sidelines of the UN climate conference in Glasgow in November and exchanged remarks.

Though New Delhi recognized Israel in 1950, ties were long frosty between the two nations, owing largely to India’s large Muslim population and its leadership role in the Cold War-era Non-Aligned Movement.

Full diplomatic relations were established in 1992.

Under the leadership of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, ties blossomed between India and Israel, culminating in the late prime minister Ariel Sharon’s 2003 visit to the country, the first by an Israeli premier.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, left, and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee wave to the media before talks in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2003. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

Defense, economic and diplomatic bilateral ties continued to grow in recent years, and Modi — like Vajpayee a member of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party — became the first Indian premier to visit Israel in 2017.

Bennett’s predecessor Benjamin Netanyahu and Modi are close personal friends who often showered each other with public praise and good wishes. Netanyahu placed a framed photograph of himself with the Indian premier strolling barefoot on an Israeli beach in his Jerusalem office, where all visiting leaders could see it.

Though Netanyahu is out of office, bilateral ties continue to move forward.

During a trip to Israel last year, where he extended the invitation to Bennett to visit, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar lauded the business relationship between his country and Israel, saying at a meeting with CEOs and government officials that India regards Israel “in many ways as perhaps our most trusted and innovative partner.”

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