Thirty years after India became the first non-Muslim state to recognize the “State of Palestine,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signed off on a joint statement on Wednesday that mentioned the Palestinian-Israel diplomatic process, but made no reference to a two state solution.
The 20th clause of a 21-clause document that was issued following the two leaders’ lengthy working meeting referred to the diplomatic process.
“The two Prime Ministers discussed the developments pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process,” the statement read.
“They underlined the need for the establishment of a just and durable peace in the region. They reaffirmed their support for an early negotiated solution between the sides based on mutual recognition and security arrangements.”
This week in 60 seconds - Modi in Israel
Not only will Modi not be visiting the Palestinian Authority during his 49-hour visit, but the first day and a half of the visit passed without him once publicly referring to the Palestinian issue.
One senior Indian official said it was not his country’s style to engage in “megaphone diplomacy,” or go to other countries and lecture them on what they need to do. He said this is because to a large degree, India does not like it when other countries come to India and lecture it about relations with Pakistan.
After meeting for some four hours with Netanyahu, as well as at times with an expanded group of advisers and ministers, Modi said that India and Israel “live in complex geographies.”
Speaking in English and aided by teleprompters – a prop not ordinarily seen when visiting leaders speak to the media after meeting Netanyahu – Modi said: “We are aware of strategic threats to regional peace and stability. India has suffered firsthand the violence and hatred spread by terror.
So has Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu and I agreed to do much more together to protect our strategic interests, and also to cooperate to combat growing radicalization and terrorism, including in cyberspace.”
Modi said that he also discussed with Netanyahu the situation in the region, and that “it is India’s hope that peace, dialogue and restraint will prevail.”
Netanyahu said after the meeting that both he and Modi recognize that “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.”
The joint statement was even more forceful on the issue of terrorism, saying the two prime ministers “stressed that there can be no justification for acts of terror on any grounds whatsoever.
The leaders asserted that strong measures should be taken against terrorists, terror organizations, their networks, and all those who encourage, support and finance terrorism, or provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups.”
Netanyahu said that Modi’s decision to meet on Wednesday with Moishe Holtzberg, who as a baby survived the terrorist attack on the Chabad House in Mumbai in 2008 that killed both his parents, was an “important gesture.”
Netanyahu said this is “an expression of our commitment to fight the bad and work for the good, and I think this is what marks this visit. It’s a partnership to seek the good, to defend the good, to achieve the good.”
Netanyahu said that India and Israel are talking about cooperating in third countries, primarily in Africa where India is already a presence, and that “Israel is present and is coming into Africa.”
He said that by joining forces, the two countries can do a great deal to help the people of Africa, a continent that Netanyahu has identified as a strategic priority for Israel.
Before Modi and Netanyahu gave statements to the press, and seven bilateral agreements were signed. These included one on expanding the work of Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development, inside India; another set up a $40 million joint research and development fund to be paid for jointly by the two countries; three agreements enhance space cooperation; and two deal with water management and conservation.
Obviously cognizant that all the promises of technological, agricultural and defense cooperation need a framework for implementation, Netanyahu said that he and Modi “have our feet firmly planted on the ground,” and have directed their staffs to “bring us concrete plans in these diverse areas.”
Defense cooperation between the two countries has for the last 25 years been the relationship’s primary engine, with Israel one of India’s top three weapons suppliers, but this is something that neither man spoke of to any significant degree.
Nevertheless, the joint statement reaffirmed “the importance of bilateral defense cooperation over the years,” and said “it was agreed that future developments in this sphere should focus on joint development of defense products, including transfer of technology from Israel, with a special emphasis on the ‘Make in India’ initiative.’” Some three months after saying in Beijing that Israel’s relationship with China was a marriage made in heaven, Netanyahu said the same thing about the relationship with India.
“I have a feeling that today, India and Israel are changing our world and maybe changing parts of the world,” he said. “Because this is a cooperation, it’s a marriage really made in heaven but we’re implementing it here on earth.”
Netanyahu began his comments by saying that “almost 30 years ago, I went on a date in Tel Aviv in an Indian restaurant, and produced two fine children. The food was great,” he said.
Then in reference to the dinner he hosted for Modi on Tuesday evening, Netanyahu continued: “So yesterday, I asked Reena Pushkarna, who was the owner of that restaurant, to prepare this dinner, for this date, and it was equally good.”
Netanyahu, who has shadowed Modi throughout most of his first day and a half in the country, will do so on the final day as well, traveling with him in the morning by helicopter to Haifa, where they will visit the Haifa Indian Cemetery and the Rambam Medical Center. They will also meet Israeli and Indian business people and innovators, and see cutting-edge Israeli and Indian technological innovations before Modi is scheduled to leave in the late afternoon.