‘True friend’ closes gap with Israel Netanyahu receives Modi at airport, calls first visit by Indian PM ‘significant step’

New Delhi, July 4 Prime Minister Narendra Modi today arrived in Israel at the start of a historic three-day visit. The PM was received at the airport by his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, in an unusual gesture that also pointed to the warmth and happiness of Israel in welcoming the first-ever visit by an Indian PM.  The Indian national anthem was played as Modi received a red-carpet welcome at the Ben Gurion airport. Welcoming Modi, Netanyahu said: “You are a true friend. We love India.” The Israeli PM ventured to speak in Hindi and said: “Aapka swaagat hai mere dost (You are welcome, my friend).” The emphasis on friendship was on full display as Israel pulled out all the stops to welcome Modi. “It is said that in Silicon Valley in California, two languages are very common — Hindi and Hebrew,” Netanyahu said. Modi was equally effusive in his delight in being the first Indian PM to visit the country: “It is my singular honour to be the first-ever Indian PM to undertake this groundbreaking visit to Israel.” Expressing his admiration for Israel, he said: “The people of Israel built their nation on democratic principles. They have nurtured it with hard work, greed and spirit of innovation.” The two themes that stood out following their statements to the media were the need to fight terrorism and India’s pursuit for technology, which is Israel’s forte.  “This is a very significant step in strengthening relations between the two countries. The formula for success is simple, it’s I-squared and T-squared, which equals ‘Indian talent and Israel technology’, and equals ‘India-Israel ties for tomorrow’,” said Netanyahu, adding Israel had waited a long time, actually 70 years, for this visit to happen. Before heading for a one-on-one dinner, the two leaders visited Danziger flower farm and Yad Vashem Memorial museum.