Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin NetanyahuReuters

With India-Israel ties on the upswing after Narendra Modi's election, the prime ministers of the two nations met on Sunday to discuss cooperation in areas ranging from agriculture and water management to defence and cyber security.

The "sky is the limit" for relations between the two countries, Benjamin Netanyahu told Modi, The Jerusalem Post reported.

"We are two old people, some of the oldest civilisations on earth. But also two democracies, proud of our tradition, but also eager to seize the future," Netanyahu said according to the newspaper. "I believe that if we work together it will be for the benefit of both our peoples."

Sunday's meeting was the first high level meeting between India and Israel since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's 2003 visit to India. As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi had visited Israel in 2006 and Netanyahu invited Modi to visit Israel again, this time as Prime Minister.

A sign of the ties between India and Israel becoming closer is the refusal of the Modi government to condemn Israel in parliament for its actions in the Gaza as demanded by the Congress and some other parties. This led to a walk-out from the Lok Sabha by the Congress and two other parties. Modi has not held meetings with Palestinian or other West Asian leaders during his visit here.

In discussing defence relations, Modi told Netanyahu about his "Make in India" programme and pointed out that 49% investment was possible in defence industries, said Syed Akbaruddin, the External Affairs Ministry spokesman.

Modi made a pitch for Israeli investments and they discussed boosting bilateral trade that now stands at about $6 billion.

Israel has developed methods and technologies for farming in arid land and for water management. Modi wanted Israel to work with India in water management and solid waste treatment in urban areas as part of his vision for smart cities.

While discussing cooperation in the field of information technology, Netanyahu mentioned that when he had worked in areas relating to technology he found in California that a large number of workers were Indians or Israelis.

Netanyahu briefed Modi on how Israel perceives developments in West Asia.

Modi told him - and an earlier delegation of Jewish leaders from the American Jewish Congress - that India is proud of its tradition of tolerance towards Jews and and absence of discrimination against them. Netanyahu and the Jewish leaders acknowledged that anti-Semitism was never in India.

The AJC delegates also discussed how ties between India, Israel and the US can be strengthened.