With India and Israel expanding bilateral cooperation across various fields, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday announced a direct Delhi-Mumbai-Tel Aviv flight and simplified rules for getting Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards.
Addressing a 5000-strong crowd of Indians at the Tel Aviv Convention Centre, Modi said Indian-origin people who had done the compulsory military service for Israel would now be eligible for OCI cards. He hailed the community and said innovation, science and technology will be bridge between two countries.
"My Indian brothers and sisters toiled day and night to realise the dream of 'Make the desert bloom'," he said.
Welcoming PM Modi earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said, "These are the Jews of India. They love India, they love Israel, they love our friendship." He said the two countries "have a vast programme to take our ties to new heights. But we have a human bridge between us."
Earlier in the day, the two leaders talked of "shared priorities" and a strategic partnership that "can help global peace and stability," after deligates from both countries held back-to-back meetings over four hours and signed seven deals.
In a symbolic gesture the two leaders together met Moshe Holtzberg, the Israeli child who as a toddler survived the 2008 terror attack at a Jewish centre in Mumbai. Moshe, now 11, read out a welcome note for PM Modi, saying "Dear Mr Modi, I love you".
Netanyahu said both countries are "challenged by forces of terror" and that their meeting with Moshe Holtzberg is an "expression of our commitment to fight the bad and defend the good."
"Ours is a partnership to seek good, defend good and achieve good. This is indeed a good day," said Netyanhu, adding, "We spoke about so many fields where we can make a big difference - agriculture, water, health...today, India and Israel are changing our world and parts of the world." "We are making history together," Netanyahu said.
PM Modi said Netanyahu and he "agreed to do much more together to protect our strategic interests." He said they discussed "the situation in West Asia and the wider region", adding that "it is India's hope that peace, dialogue and restraint will prevail."
PM Modi, who is on a three-day visit, also met Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and tweeted a photo, saying, "The President of Israel welcomed me so warmly, he broke protocol. This is a mark of respect for the people of India." Rivlin recalled his visit to India last year and said PM Modi is "one of the greatest democratic leaders."
"I for I, India for Israel and Israel for India," said PM Modi, who was greeted with a warm hug by President Rivlin. PM Modi has said it is a "singular honour" to be the first Indian PM to undertake "this groundbreaking visit."