JERUSALEM, Feb 1: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-anticipated visit to Israel will likely take place later this year in what would be the first such tour by an Indian Premier to the Jewish state, according to a media report.
India’s ambassador to Israel Pavan Kapoor told local news portal ‘Ynet’ about the visit as the two countries are celebrating 25 years of diplomatic relations.
Kapoor also mentioned about efforts to boost defence cooperation with Israel which is looking to set up manufacturing units in India under the “Make in India” campaign.
Other informed sources said that the dates have not yet been finalised by the two sides but “it is likely to happen in June-July of 2017.”
India’s relations with Israel have made steady progress since the two countries established diplomatic relations 25 years ago in January 1992 even as New Delhi has generally shied away from visits at the highest level in the past.
The BJP-led governments seem to have accorded a greater priority to this relationship with President Pranab Mukherjee visiting Israel in October 2015 in what was the first such visit by an Indian Head of State to the Jewish state.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin made a reciprocal visit last year at Mukhejee’s invitation which was the second visit by an Israeli Head of State to New Delhi coming after a gap of almost 20 years.
The only visit of an Israeli Prime Minister to India happened in 2003 when Ariel Sharon visited New Delhi.
Relations between the two countries have constantly shown an upward trajectory, irrespective of the governments in power in New Delhi.
Modi’s visit is being discussed amid talks of a “close chemistry” between him and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The two leaders have already met twice on foreign soil on the outskirts of UN related events and are said to be constantly in touch with each other over the phone.
“I am happy that often we can talk easily on telephone, we can discuss everything. It has very rarely happened. In your case it has happened,” Modi told Netanyahu during their meeting on the sidelines of Paris Climate summit in 2015.
The Israeli Premier had then promptly responded saying, “in your case too”.
India’s abstention at a UNHRC vote in 2015 on a UN report critical of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza war of 2014 was described by many here as a sign of a “qualitative leap” in relations which had transformed into a “completely normal relations without any hangups” with many crediting the closeness between the two Prime Ministers for the “change in heart”.
India, however, later clarified that the vote was a “principled” stand in connection to the International Criminal Court that had reference in the resolution and did not mark “any shift in policy”.
Netanyahu has often described Modi “as my friend” and has been trying to take steps to boost Israel’s exports to India, emphasising that “sky is the limit” as far as cooperation between the two countries goes across several sectors.
Starting with humble figures of USD 200 million in annual trade in 1992, the two countries have registered a bilateral trade of about USD 4.5 billion last year.
The defence ties between the two countries have often drawn worldwide attention and acquired strategic dimensions. (PTI)