Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu to visit India later this year

New Delhi established full diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv on January 29, 1992. Here, PM Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu meet in New York in 2014.

New Delhi established full diplomatic ties with Tel Aviv on January 29, 1992. Here, PM Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu meet in New York in 2014.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Israel and India to upgrade to Strategic Partnership on non-security issues during Modi visit next week

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel next week will be reciprocated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later this year, a senior official at the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday.

"We are not looking at [Mr.Modi’s] as a one-off visit, but a whole year to celebrate the 25th year of full relations between India and Israel. Many events are planned through the year, and we are hoping that by the end of the year we will see an incoming visit by their Prime Minister to India," Secretary, Economic Relations, Amar Sinha, said at an event to discuss Mr. Modi’s visit.

Mr. Modi’s visit to Israel from July 4 to 6 has been hailed as the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister. According to officials, the visit will see the partnership being upgraded to a "Strategic Partnership" on issues like water, agriculture, science and technology, and space.

Mr. Modi will be received in Tel Aviv by Mr. Netanyahu, who will accompany Mr. Modi to all events in Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv and Haifa, with the exception of calls on President Reuven Rivlin and the leader of the Opposition Isaac Herzog.


The two leaders will address a gathering of about 6,000 Indian-origin Israelis at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds Convention Centre on July 5. They will also meet one of the youngest survivors of the Mumbai 26/11 attacks, Moshe Holtzberg. Mr. Holtzberg’s parents were gunned down in Mumbai’s Chabad House; he was saved by his nanny Sandra Samuel.  

The leaders are expected to sign MoUs to upgrade ties in more than 30 areas, including cybersecurity, agriculture, tourism, health, connectivity, education, Ganga rejuvenation and "attracting Bollywood". Both sides will also commit $40 million to an Industrial Research & Development fund to encourage applied scientific research, using Israeli innovation and Indian expertise.

Speaking to a group of journalists, Israel’s Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon said the Israeli Cabinet cleared the Strategic Partnership on non-security issues on June 24.

"We have signed strategic partnerships with Africa, China and Japan earlier. But this one [with India will be] much more comprehensive," he added.

No stop at Palestine

Mr. Modi will also be the first senior Indian leader to visit Israel without making any stop in Palestine, signalling a major change in India’s foreign policy. Mr. Carmon, denying that this was a gesture Israel had asked for, said, "We understand India’s commitment to both sides [Palestine and Israel], and that has been going well." 


Significantly, despite the fact that India is Israel's largest arms export market in the world, the Ambassador said there would be "no defence component" to the visit. Israel is one of India’s largest arms suppliers. In April, India signed a $2 billion deal with an Israeli firm for advanced medium- range surface-to-air missiles (MRSAMs), the biggest such deal for the Israeli industry.  

When asked if Israel was worried about competition with the United States on supplying defence equipment, Mr. Carmon told The Hindu, "We are never looking at what we do with India as a competition with anyone."

During Mr. Modi's visit to the U.S. last week, the Trump administration cleared the sale of 22 Predator drones to India for $2-3 billion.

Officials added that the issues regarding air connectivity between India and Israel would be taken up during the visit. Despite close ties, there are no direct flights between the capitals of the countries. Israel’s national carrier EL AL flies from Mumbai to Tel Aviv two to three times a week, while Air India, which was set to start flights in May this year, is yet to get its operations off the ground.

Ahead of the visit, Israeli newspapers have described the arrangements for the Indian Prime Minister as akin to those for the "Pope and the U.S. President". At least nine Indian delegations have visited Jerusalem to check on arrangements for Mr. Modi, the Jerusalem Post said, adding that he is likely to "sleep on the same bed" as the U.S President did when he visited Israel in May last.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 5:38:35 AM |

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