JERUSALEM: India's Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi has expressed his desire to "deepen and develop" ties with Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today.
"On Friday, I spoke with the Prime Minister-elect of India. There too there is a clear expression of the desire to deepen and develop economic ties with the State of Israel," Netanyahu told his cabinet at its weekly meeting.
Netanyahu, who is looking to strengthen economic ties with Asia which is likely to overtake the Jewish state's close ally United States as the largest export destination, has recently put a lot of emphasis on promoting bilateral trade with India, China, Japan and other Asian countries.
Netanyahu did not lose time in reaching out to Modi - all set to be India's next prime minister after BJP secured a landslide victory in the Lok Sabha polls - as part of his goal to benefit from untapped potential in the huge market there.
Israel may have a "staunch new ally" in South Asia with India's election of Modi to the position of Prime Minister, New York-based International Business Times reported yesterday amid speculation here that ascendance of BJP would also bring back the hype around India-Israel ties.
The two countries have been negotiating a Free Trade Agreement for the last several years.
While relations between India and Israel have deepened and diversified ever since diplomatic relations were established in 1992, the five years of BJP rule in the past gave a major impetus to the ties.
Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited India in 2003 and prominent BJP leaders - L K Advani and Jaswant Singh - had come to Israel to discuss cooperation in wide ranging fields.
Israel's support to India during the Kargil war had helped build a relationship of trust which saw defence cooperation between the two countries registering a significant high.