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Narendra Modi’s Israel visit likely in June to mark 25 years of diplomatic ties

LiveMint logoLiveMint 28-02-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: With India and Israel marking 25 years of establishment of diplomatic ties on 29 January, the two countries have planned a series of events including the exchange of prime ministerial visits before the close of the anniversary year in January 2018.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to visit Israel in June—the first ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to the Jewish country.

His counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to visit India before 29 January 2018, i.e., the official close of the year-long anniversary celebrations, said Amar Sinha, secretary, economic relations, Indian ministry of external affairs, on Tuesday.

The first meeting between Modi and Netanyahu took place in September 2014 on the margins of the UN General Assembly session in New York—marking the first meeting between prime ministers of the two countries in a decade.

In September 2003, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon visited India.

Analysts say that India under the leadership of Modi has crafted a West Asia policy that envisages ties with Israel, the Arab states and Iran. Modi has already visited key Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar as well as Shia majority Iran.

Ties between India and Israel—once seen in opposite camps due to India’s participation in the Non-Aligned Movement and support to the Palestinian people—have soared since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1992.

Currently, Israel is one of India’s top defence partners with India importing surface-to-air missile systems, unmanned aerial vehicles for surveillance, radars and anti-tank missiles between 1992 and 2016. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) which tracks global defence sales, India was the world’s largest importer of major arms from 2012 through 2016, accounting for 13% of the global total. And over the last five years, defence trade between India and Israel has averaged more than $1billion annually, SIPRI says.

According to a report in the Jerusalem Post last week, India is likely to award a $2.5 billion contract for its army to buy a medium-range surface-to-air missile defence system from Israel Aerospace Industries.

While defence and counter-terrorism constitute the most high profile part of the India-Israel relationship, the collaboration between the two countries spans an entire spectrum “from security to food security, from energy to water, from agriculture to academia, education (and) health”, said Daniel Carmon, Israel’s ambassador to India, at the launch of a logo to mark 25 years of diplomatic ties. The logo showcases the flags of the two countries with “25 years” inscribed in the middle.

Describing the partnership between India and Israel as a “natural” one, Sinha said the two countries were “consciously making (bilateral ties) a multidimensional relationship”, ranging from cybersecurity to drinking water.

India being a “water-stressed country”, Israel is the ideal partner, Sinha said, noting that Israel’s pioneering drip irrigation technology had been widely adopted by Indian farmers. Israel has established centres of agricultural excellence in India as technology demonstrators as well as for adoption by farmers on a commercial scale.

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