Netanyahu and Modi
Netanyahu and Modi Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Monday he was "disappointed" by India's refusal to back recognition of Jerusalem as his country's capital but would not let it spoil his landmark visit to the Asian giant.

The Israeli leader arrived Sunday at the head of the biggest business delegation he has taken on a foreign visit.

In an interview released Monday, Netanyahu told the India Today media group that he has a "special relationship" with his counterpart Narendra Modi.

But the run-up was clouded before it began by India joining more than 100 countries at the United Nations in voting last month to condemn Washington's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

"Naturally I am disappointed but I think this visit is a testament to the fact that our relationship is moving forward on so many fronts," Netanyahu said in the interview.

Ahead of the visit, India also cancelled a $500 million deal for Israeli Spike anti-tank missiles.

Israel exports an average of $1 billion of military equipment each year to India, but Modi wants to end India's status as the world's top defense importer.

Netanyahu, however, was again optimistic on the missile deal.

"I hope that this visit can help resolve this issue because I think there is a reasonable chance we can reach an equitable solution," he said. Declaring that no details could be given until the end of his tour,
Netanyahu added, "Our defense relationship is quite significant and it encompasses many things."

"I think the keyword is defense. We want to defend ourselves. We are not aggressive nations, but very committed to making sure that no one can commit aggression against us."

Netanyahu is the first Israeli leader to visit India in 15 years. He and his wife Sara were welcomed at New Delhi airport by Modi, who made history in July when he became the first Indian leader to visit

Modi also stressed how the "historic" visit would "further cement the close friendship between our nations."

Netanyahu expects to sign new agreements in energy, aviation and cinema production. He is to visit the Taj Mahal and Modi's home state of Gujarat as well as hold meetings with Bollywood stars in Mumbai.

But he will also make an emotional visit to the Chabad center targeted in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, a symbolic gesture to India's tiny Jewish community.

Netanyahu is accompanied by 12-year-old Moshe Holtzberg, whose parents were among 166 people killed by Pakistani militants in coordinated attacks on the city.

Holtzberg, 12, lost his parents Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg when terrorists brutally murdered them and four others nine years ago on the Chabad House his parents ran in Mumbai.

In the 2008 attack, Pakistan-based Islamist terrorists raided the Chabad House and murdered six people, including Gavriel and his wife Rivka, who was 5 months pregnant. Their two-year-old son Moshe was rescued by his Indian nanny, Sandra Samuel and is being raised by his grandparents in Israel.

During a summer visit to Israel, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Moshe and his maternal grandparents, emphasizing that the family is always welcome in India and providing the three with the necessary visas.

"Ultimately we will catch up with the killers but the objective is also to prevent future killers," Netanyahu said in the interview.

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