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Posted at: Jan 14, 2018, 2:21 PM; last updated: Jan 14, 2018, 8:57 PM (IST)

Netanyahu arrives on 'historic' India visit; Modi receives him at airport

Teen Murti Chowk renamed after Israeli city
Netanyahu arrives on 'historic' India visit; Modi receives him at airport
Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomes the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, on his arrival, at Air Force Station, Palam, in New Delhi. Via PIB handout

Smita Sharma

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 14

Putting aside the Jerusalem vote row at the UN, India and Israel on Sunday forged closer ties. In departure from protocol and reciprocating his Israeli counterpart’s gesture, Prime Minister Narendra Modi received Benjamin Netanyahu and wife Sara at the airport.

Both leaders embraced in warm hugs. This is the first official visit to India by an Israeli Prime Minister since Ariel Sharon’s visit in 2003.

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Welcoming the guests, Modi wrote on Twitter, “Your visit to India is historic and special. It will further cement the close friendship between our nations.”

Soon afterwards, Netanyahu and Modi participated in a ceremony at Teen Murti Memorial marking the formal renaming of Teen Murti Chowk into Teen Murti Haifa Chowk.

The two prime ministers paid homage to 44 Indian soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice for liberation of fortified Haifa city on 23 September, 1918, during World War I.

The then 15 Imperial Service Cavalry Brigade, including Hyderabad, Jodhpur and Mysore Lancers, represented by three bronze statues at Teen Murti Haifa Chowk, led a victorious assault on joint forces of Ottomans, Germany and Austria-Hungary.

The capture of Haifa cleared the sea route for supplies for Allies. Each year 61 Cavalry celebrates 23rd September as its Raising Day or “Haifa Day”.

Modi wrote in Gujarati in the visitors’ book, “The sacrifice commemorated at Teen Murti observes its centenary. Naming this spot as Teen Murti — Haifa Chowk, marks this historic occasion. In the presence of the Prime Minister of Israel, we pay homage to the brave soldiers. Salute to the great Indian traditions of selfless sacrifice and penance.”

“We are deeply moved and honored as we remember the brave Indian soldiers who helped liberate our land and Haifa,” wrote Sara and Benjamin Netanyahu who will be hosted for a private dinner by Modi tonight.

The two leaders had laid wreaths at the Indian War Cemetery in Haifa during the historic first ever visit of an Indian Prime Minister to Israel last year, also without a hyphenated tour to Palestine.

On Monday, Netanyahu will receive ceremonial guard of honour and hold formal restricted and delegation talks with Modi.

He will travel to Agra, Ahmedabad and Mumbai with Modi accompanying him for a large part of the visit.

Netanyahu is accompanied by 130-member strong business delegation, including senior officials from Aeronautics Defense Systems, a drone making company under criminal investigations back home as per Israeli media.

MoUs are likely in areas of agriculture, innovation and water management. Defence technology transfer and India’s support to two-state solution for Palestine will be tricky areas in the conversation.

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