Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held discreet talks on Wednesday on enhancing security cooperation between the two countries, according to Hebrew-language media.
Modi is currently making the first-ever trip by an Indian prime minister to Israel, where he is being feted by Netanyahu for three days, as Jerusalem touts its growing ties with the second-most populous country in the world.
In public, Modi’s visit has focused on economic and technological cooperation, with New Delhi said to be keen to de-emphasize defense ties, in order not to hurt India’s economic links with Iran and other countries hostile to Israel.
But in a Wednesday meeting between Netanyahu and Modi, the two leaders were joined by Mossad chief Yossi Cohen for a discussion on bolstering intelligence and security cooperation, especially against international terror groups such as Islamic State.
According to Channel 2, Netanyahu also raised with Modi the as yet unfinished investigation into the 2008 jihadist assault in Mumbai, which included an attack on the city’s Chabad House that left Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg dead along with four other people staying in the building.
Israel is said to be frustrated that the case is still open.
The assault included 12 separate shooting and bombing attacks by 10 members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamist terror group based in Pakistan. At least 164 people were killed over the four-day terror spree.
Israel’s Ambassador to India, Daniel Carmon, said on Monday that Israel did not believe Indian authorities were holding back the investigation, but would nevertheless “continue to raise the issue,” the Haaretz newspaper reported.
In a joint statement after the Wednesday afternoon meeting, Netanyahu and Modi stressed their shared belief that “there can be no justification whatsoever for terrorist acts.”
“The leaders stressed that harsh measures must be taken against terrorists, terror organizations and whoever supports, encourages, finances or shelters them,” the statement read.
Netanyahu said in a separate statement that “we also recognize that we are being challenged. We are being challenged by the forces of terror, the forces of terror that seeks to undermine our world, our countries, the peace and stability of our common civilization and we have agreed to cooperate in this area as well.”
Netanyahu and Modi also reportedly discussed expanding air travel between Israel and India by encouraging Air India to open direct flights to Tel Aviv that would compete with Israeli carrier El Al, among others, and lead to lower prices for flights in both directions.