In a rare meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today met Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu and discussed a wide range of issues, including defence cooperation and the situation created by the Islamic State (IS) in West Asia.

During the 30-minute meeting, Netanyahu invited Modi to visit Israel at an early date.

Netanyahu recalled that Modi had come to Israel in his earlier capacity as Chief Minister but he now hopes that he could visit as Prime Minister, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

He said Prime Minister Modi has taken note of the invitation and this would be discussed further through diplomatic channels.

The spokesperson said the two leaders discussed ways to enhance economic cooperation and Israel offered expertise in water management and other agricultural-related areas.

Bilateral trade

India and Israel have a very robust relationship and currently bilateral trade stands at approximately $6 billion.

“Apart from these, there were discussions on matters relating to how Israel perceives developments in the region, that is West Asia. Also, Israeli Prime Minister explained their views and vision on talks that are happening between Iran and P5 Plus 1,” the spokesperson said.

Defence deals

Asked if there was a discussion on defence deals, he said: “Yes there was a discussion in terms of defence ties and the Prime Minister explained that his new vision of ‘Make in India’ was a priority.

“He also explained that right now in defence sector, Israel or any other country can invest up to 49 per cent. And the Prime Minister made a pitch for skill sharing in areas like IT and water management.”

According to diplomatic officials, today’s meeting on the sidelines of the UN was rare and has not happened in the last one decade.

The last time the Prime Ministers of the two countries met was ten years ago when Ariel Sharon had come to India.

Developments in W. Asia

The two leaders discussed the developments in the West Asia region. During the meeting, Modi, who had met a Jewish group earlier, also mentioned that there was no discrimination against the community in India.

The Prime Minister was accompanied by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and other senior officials during the meeting.

(This article was published on September 29, 2014)