Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday congratulated new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, saying he looks forward to meeting him and deepening the strategic partnership between the two counties.
“Excellency Naftali Bennett, congratulations on becoming the Prime Minister of Israel. As we celebrate 30 years of the upgradation of diplomatic relations next year, I look forward to meeting you and deepening the strategic partnership between our two countries,” Modi tweeted. He tweeted the same messages in Hebrew language too.
“As you complete your successful tenure as the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, I convey my profound gratitude for your leadership and personal attention to India-Israel strategic partnership @netanyahu,” Modi further tweeted hours after a vote that brought Netanyahu’s successor Naftali Bennett to power in Israel.
Netanyahu as Prime Minister, in his second stint from March 31, 2009 till June 13, 2021, brought India and Israel closer. The relationship strengthened further after PM Modi came to power in 2014. In July 2017 Modi undertook an historic first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Israel, during which the relationship was upgraded to a strategic level. Netanyahu visited India in January 2018.
Ever since the two countries have been partnering in the fields of research and development innovation, water, agriculture and space, cyber security, oil and gas cooperation, film co-production and air transport.
The bilateral merchandise trade stood at US$5.65 billion (excluding defence) in 2018-19, with the balance of trade being in India’s favour by US $1.8 billion, as per official data. India is Israel’s third largest trade partner in Asia and seventh largest globally.
In recent years, according to a statement by ministry of external affairs, the bilateral trade has diversified into several sectors such as pharmaceuticals, agriculture, IT and telecom, and homeland security. Major imports by India from Israel include precious stones and metals, chemicals and mineral products, base metals and machinery and transport equipment.
Also, India imports critical defence technologies from Israel. There are regular exchanges between the armed forces of the two countries. There is cooperation on security issues, including a joint working group on counter-terrorism.
Naftali Bennett, a right-wing Jewish nationalist and former tech millionaire, became Prime Minister after a vote in the Knesset legislature following weeks of intense political drama. He won with razor-thin majority of 60-59 in the 120-seat chamber.
The former ally of Netanyahu, Bennett will preside over a diverse and fragile coalition comprised of eight parties with deep ideological differences, promising to try to heal a divided nation.