NEW DELHI: Prime minister Narendra Modi on Sunday hailed the close ties with Israel as he exchanged Friendship Day greetings with Israel’s President Reuben Rivlin.
“Thank you @PresidentRuvi! Greetings to you as well as to the wonderful people of Israel. May the India-Israel friendship grow even stronger in the times to come," Modi said in a Twitter post.
It was in response to a message posted by Rivlin earlier in the day in which the Israeli president wished Modi and the people of India on the occasion.
“Happy #FriendshipDay to our dear friends in #India!" Rivlin said in his Twitter message which was posted in Hindi as well.
India-Israeli ties have been on a markedly upward trajectory since Modi took office in 2014. Though the two countries established diplomatic ties in 1992 and quickly cemented a deep defence relationship, New Delhi was keen on ensuring equidistance between Israel and Palestine and balancing ties with both. Israel’s then president Ezer Weizmann visited India in 1996 and then prime minister Ariel Sharon came to India in 2003 but New Delhi did not return the visits at the level of prime minister though many ministerial visits took place.
It was Modi who in July 2017 broke convention and travelled to Israel on a stand-alone visit that was the first to the Jewish country by an Indian prime minister. He did not visit Palestine during the visit, in a signal that ties between the two would proceed on different paths and not be seen through the prism of the other. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu paid a return visit India in January 2018.
International Friendship Day is observed on the first Sunday in August every year.