New Delhi, Jan 14 (IANS) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday broke protocol to personally receive his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu with a hug as he arrived here to begin a six-day visit that will also take him to Mumbai and Gujarat.
As Netanyahu and his wife Sara stepped on the red carpet, a smiling Modi embraced the Israeli leader and then shook hands with the couple. "Very much appreciate the gesture," the Jerusalem Post quoted Netanyahu as saying.
Before embarking on the flight, Netanyahu had said: "We are strengthening the relationship between Israel and this important world power. This helps us with security, the economy, trade, tourism and many other aspects.
"It is a very great blessing to the state of Israel," he added.
External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar underlined that Modi had departed from protocol to receive Netanyahu. "The visit is a fitting culmination to the silver jubilee year of the formal relationship (between India and Israel)."
This is the first visit to India by an Israeli Prime Minister since Ariel Sharon came in 2003.
Modi tweeted: "Welcome to India, my friend... Your visit to India is historic and special. It will further cement the close relationship between our nations."
The Prime Minister's Office said: "A special welcome for a special visit... Modi personally receives Israeli PM at Delhi Airport."
Netanyahu and Modi are expected to discuss a variety of subjects related to bilateral relations and the global situation.
The Israeli leader, accompanied by dozens of Israeli businessmen, will visit the Centre of Excellence in Agriculture at Vadrad in Gujarat and interact with business leaders in Mumbai. He will also go to the Taj Mahal city of Agra.