Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday set aside protocol to personally receive his Israeli counterpart and "friend" Benjamin Netanyahu with a warm hug as he arrived here on a six-day visit to step up growing trade as well as military and strategic ties between the two countries.
Modi and Netanyahu, who have developed a close friendship, exchanging greetings on social media on various occasions and hugging each other heartily, will hold talks on a range of issues on Monday after President Ram Nath Kovind formally welcomes the Israeli leader at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The visit, which marks 25 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, comes six months after Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the Jewish state in July last year.
Before embarking on the flight to India, Netanyahu said his trip was intended to strengthen bilateral relations "even more".
"This visit is an opportunity to enhance cooperation with a global economic, security, technology and tourism power," he said. "Modi is a close friend of Israel and of mine and I appreciate the fact that he will accompany me on extensive parts of my visit."
He said strengthening relationship between Israel and "this important world power... helps us with security, the economy, trade, tourism and many other aspects".
The Congress criticised Modi for what it called "hugplomacy". It posted a video hashtagged "hugplomacy" on its official Twitter handle, capturing a few "awkward" moments in Modi's meetings with world leaders including US President Donald Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and also Netanyahu.
The Bharatiya Janata Party condemned the meme video, alleging that the opposition party had "lost its sense and balance" which "does not behove a mature political party".
Today only, a survey found him at No 3 in popularity as a world leader."
The two leaders paid homage to Indian soldiers who fell in the battle of Haifa during World War I.
Netanyahu's entourage includes the largest-ever delegation of Israeli business people of some 130.
According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, these businessmen include senior executives of Aeronautics Defense Systems -- an Israeli drone maker currently under criminal investigation by the police's international crimes division.
At least nine commercial agreements are expected be signed during the visit. These include memoranda of understanding on gas and oil, renewable energy, aviation, industrial research and development, cybersecurity, reciprocal investments, supplementary medicine, space research and joint movie productions, Haaretz said.
Netanyahu and Modi will open the Raisina Dialogue, India's annual geopolitical conference to be attended by people from around the world, including former US nuclear negotiator Wendy Sherman, in Delhi.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)