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Israeli PM lauds Modi as the ‘most popular person’ in his country

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Naftali Bennett, the Prime Minister of Israel, in Glasgow on Tuesday (Images courtesy: PIB)

Naftali Bennett, the Prime Minister of Israel, has credited Indian PM Narendra Modi for "restarting the relationship between two unique civilizations" and even called him "the most popular person" in his country.

The warmth and friendship that exists between New Delhi and Jerusalem was on full display as Modi and Bennett met on the sidelines of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow on Tuesday, the first meeting between the two Prime Ministers.

In a video that has now gone viral on social media, Bennett is lavishing praise on Modi, saying "you are the most popular person in Israel" and jokingly added "come join my party" as the two leaders shared a laugh and sat down for some serious discussions. 

The two PMs reviewed bilateral strategic partnership and agreed to work together on innovation, high technology, space, security, agriculture, food technologies and climate-related technologies.  

"We had fruitful talks on boosting India-Israel friendship in sectors such as research, innovation and futuristic technologies. These sectors are critical for empowering our youngsters," tweeted PM Modi after the meeting.  

Recalling that next year would mark 30 years of the establishment of full diplomatic relations between India and Israel, Modi also extended an invitation to Bennett to visit India.

"Thank you, Narendra Modi. Together, we can bring India-Israel relations to a whole new level," tweeted Bennett who had on the first day of COP26 meet on Monday said that "it was truly great to finally meet" the Indian PM.  

Bennett's deep connect with India

Israeli Prime Minister's India connection runs deep.

After studying law at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Bennett moved to New York and co-founded Cyota, an anti-fraud software company, in 1999.

It was his personal experience and interaction with Indians during that period that shaped his love and affection towards India.

"When I ran a hi-tech company, we merged with an Indian company – the two 'I's, India and Israel, in Manhattan. In the office, there were a bunch of Israelis and Indians, and getting together created a remarkable dynamic of innovation. There's so much that we can learn from you," he told Modi on Tuesday.

Narendra Modi

Returning to Israel, Bennett served as bureau head to then opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu from 2006 to 2008.

On Tuesday, he mentioned that his goal is to continue the path that Modi placed with his predecessor, former PM Netanyahu, consistently working to strengthen the deep bond that exists between the Indian and Jewish civilizations.

"I know it comes from your heart. It's not about interests; it's about a deep conviction that you harbour and we feel it. On behalf of all Israeli citizens, we deeply appreciate this whole new approach that will go down in history as something that you brought about. So thank you."

Last month, the Israeli PM had also discussed strengthening the strategic alliance, expanding bilateral ties and deepening the warm friendship between Israel and India when External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met him at the PM's office in Jerusalem.  

"I speak on behalf of Israelis: We love India. We view India as a huge friend and we're looking forward to expanding our relationship in all fields and all dimensions," Bennett had said on October 20 while thanking Jaishankar and PM Modi for their "personal commitment" to the partnership between the two countries.
 
Israel's accession to the India-led International Solar Alliance (ISA) is believed to be just a harbinger of events which will follow next, including renewing the negotiations on a Free Trade Area agreement between the countries this month, with the aim of finalising it by mid-2022.

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