Narendra Modi lands in Israel on historic visit

04 July 2017

Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in Israel, becoming the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel after the two countries established diplomatic relations 25 years ago.

While Modi's visit to Israel is seen to focus mainly on civilian cooperation between the countries, especially in the fields of water, agriculture, innovation, cybersecurity and space, India is also expected to get armed UAVs from Israel soon.

The acquisition of the Heron TP armed drones will be a major boost and a force multiplier for India's armed forces. Heron TP will allow the military to carry out cross-border strikes with less risk to personnel.

In September 2015, the Indian government approved the Air Force's request to acquire 10 Heron TP drones from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) that can be fitted with weapons to engage targets on the ground, an air force official with knowledge of the matter said.

PM Modi will discuss with his counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu the common challenges like terrorism and ways to boost economic ties.

Heron TP is an advanced, long range, high altitude and long endurance, multi-purpose MALE UAS with a variety of payloads.

Besides all-weather capability, the armed drone has a mission endurance of above 30 hours and can fly at an altitude of up to 45,000 ft.

With overall length of 14 metres and wingspan of 26 metres, the Heron TP is fitted with a 1,200 hp PT6 Turbo Prop engine and can carry a payload of 1,000 kg, compatible with NATO standards

Modi'd defence purchase deals are likely to include the purchase of 8,000 Spike anti-tank missiles, worth about $500 million, from Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems. The sale has been delayed for about two years, but in the past few weeks it was brought to the Indian cabinet for approval. If the deal is finalized, 2017 will be a record year in terms of Israeli weapons sales to India.

Prime Minister Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu struck a rapport even before the visit, hailing India-Israel ties as 'Natural partnership'.

Netanyahu will accompany Modi for almost his entire trip, in 'an indication that Israel ascribes a lot of importance' to the Indian prime minister's visit.

Immediately after the welcoming ceremony at the airport, Modi and Netanyahu will visit the Danziger Dan Flower Farm on Moshav Mishmar Hashiva to observe Israeli innovations in agriculture, with a stress on flower growing and irrigation.

The two will then proceed to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem to lay a wreath in the Holocaust memorial's remembrance hall. Modi will visit the Prime Minister's residence in Jerusalem in the evening for a joint and intimate dinner with Netanyahu.

Speaking to the media ahead of his departure to Israel, the prime minister said: "My programme during the visit gives me an opportunity to engage with a cross-section of Israeli society. I am particularly looking forward to interacting with the large vibrant Indian diaspora in Israel that represents an enduring link between our two peoples."

"I look forward to holding extensive talks with my friend, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, who shares a commitment for vibrant India-Israel ties," PM Modi had tweeted.

PM Modi had also said that he will have 'in-depth talks' with Netanyahu "on the full spectrum of our partnership and strengthening it in diverse fields for mutual benefit. We will also have the chance to discuss major common challenges like terrorism."

He will also meet President Reuven Ruvi Rivlin and will address the CEOs of the two countries as well as the Indian diaspora.

"I will join with leading Indian and Israeli CEOs and start-ups to discuss our shared priority of expanding business and investment collaboration on the ground," Modi had said ahead of the departure

PM Modi will also visit the Yad Vashem Memorial Museum to honour the memory of the victims of the holocaust that counts among the greatest tragedies in human history.

He will also pay his respects to the courageous Indian soldiers who laid down their lives during the liberation of Haifa in 1918.

Modi will be in Israel till 6 July before travelling to Hamburg in Germany to attend the G-20 Summit.

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