Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to travel to Israel on a three-day visit, will begin on July 4 and he will meet his counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, the same evening, according to sources.
It has been learned that PM Modi had made the decision last week after four sets of dates were considered. PM Modi’s Office was given the option to choose from two sets of dates in June and two sets in July.
Modi on Monday for the first time spoke about his impending visit to Israel, a first by an Indian Prime Minister, thus stamping the official seal on the shift in Indian foreign policy.
Modi will on July 5 address the Indians in Israel who have launched a website for his trip. About 80,000 Indian Jews belonging to four different communities – Bene Israel, Cochinis, Baghdadis and Bnei Menashe, live in Israel.
India Israel relations refer to the bilateral ties between the Republic of India and the State of Israel. The two countries enjoy an extensive economic, military, and strategic relationship. India is the largest buyer of Israeli military equipment and Israel is the second largest defence supplier to India after Russia. The two countries registered bilateral trade of about USD 4.5 billion last year.
In 1999 to 2009, the military business between the two nations was worth around $9 billion. Military and strategic ties between the two nations extend to intelligence sharing on terrorist groups and joint military training.
Modi will be visiting Israel on July 5 and even as his itinerary has not been made public, he in all probabilities will be skipping Palestine during his visit. However, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did fly to New Delhi last month and met with Modi.
At that meeting, Modi reiterated India’s commitment to the establishment of a “sovereign, independent, united and viable” Palestinians state “coexisting peacefully with Israel.”
PM Modi’s visit which will be the first by an Indian Prime Minister to Israel coincides with 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. As of late, the relationship between the two countries has flourished, particularly in the defence field.
The roots of PM Modi’s Israel relationship go back to 2006, when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat and visited the region to explore new ideas in irrigation, an area of Israeli expertise.
This February, for example, it was reported that Modi had approved a $2.5 billion deal to acquire an Israeli aerial defence system for the Indian military. Last November, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin travelled to India, just over a year after his Indian counterpart, President Pranab Mukherjee, visited Israel.
In January, Israel’s envoy in New Delhi, Daniel Carmon, expressed appreciation for recent changes in India’s voting patterns at international institutions. In April, India signed a $2 billion agreement with state-owned Israel Aerospace for missiles for its army and navy, giving Tel Aviv it’s biggest-ever defense deal.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s approach to Israel has been described as a marked change in foreign policy. His government has shed his predecessors’ reservations on talking about India’s ties with Israel.
In 2015, the Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon visited Delhi and said India’s warmer and closer relationship with his country is no longer under wraps. “We used to have our relationship, security wise, behind the scene,” he said in a speech.
It is expected that, while in Israel, Modi will officially invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to make a reciprocal visit to India later this year. In 2003, the late Ariel Sharon became the first and so far only sitting Israeli prime minister to travel to India.
In 2015, India abstained from a UN vote on Israel’s offensive on Gaza the previous year but Delhi said that its decision was based on problems with the text of the resolution. 41 countries voted in favour of the resolution against Israel, while only the US voted against it.