Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday personally received his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, as he arrived in India to begin a six-day visit that will take him to Gujarat and Mumbai. The two leaders attended a ceremony at the Teen Murti Memorial in New Delhi to mark the renaming of Teen Murti Chowk as Teen Murti Haifa Chowk. The decision was taken to give a fillip to 25 years of diplomatic ties between Indian and Israel.

“Thank you to my good friend, Indian PM Narendra Modi, who surprised me with a personal welcome at the airport upon my arrival in India. Together we will bring the relations between our countries to new heights!” tweeted Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel. PM Modi and Netanyahu laid a wreath at the memorial and also signed the visitor’s book.

The three bronze statues at Teen Murti represent the Hyderabad, Jodhpur and Mysore Lancers who were part of the 15 Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade that carried out the attack on Israel’s Haifa city on September 23, 1918, during World War 1 and liberated the city from Ottoman occupation. A large number of Indian soldiers were killed during the battle to free the city and nearly 900 were buried in Israel.

As Netanyahu and his wife Sara stepped on the red carpet, a smiling Modi embraced the Israeli leader and then shook hands with the couple. “Very much appreciate the gesture,” the Jerusalem Post quoted Netanyahu as saying. Before embarking on the flight, he had said: “We are strengthening the relationship between Israel and this important world power. This helps us with security, the economy, trade, tourism and many other aspects. “It is a very great blessing to the state of Israel.”

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar underlined that Modi had departed from protocol to receive Netanyahu. “The visit is a fitting culmination to the silver jubilee year of the formal relationship (between India and Israel).” This is the first visit to India by an Israeli Prime Minister since Ariel Sharon came in 2003.

Netanyahu and Modi are expected to discuss a variety of subjects related to bilateral relations and the global situation. The Israeli leader, accompanied by dozens of Israeli businessmen, will visit the Centre of Excellence in Agriculture at Vadrad in Gujarat and interact with business leaders in Mumbai. He will also go to the Taj Mahal city of Agra.

With IANS inputs

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