NEW DELHI — Narendra Modi will become the first Indian Prime Minister to travel to Israel. External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj confirmed that Modi's trip will take place soon, though dates for the trip have not been fixed yet, she said. Meanwhile Swaraj will be travelling to Israel, Palestine and Jordan later this year, she said.
While Modi has consistently referred to his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu as his "friend", Swaraj confirmed that India would not "let down" the Palestinian cause. "There is no change in India's policy towards Palestine," she added.
Netanyahu had invited Modi last year when the two met at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. Significantly, that was the only bilateral meeting Modi had during the assembly. Netanyahu at the time had said that the “sky’s the limit” in Israeli-Indian ties.
Interestingly, India is the largest customer of military equipment from Israel, including unarmed drones, making up almost 15 percent of the country's total defence exports, reported Israeli news source Haaretz. The annual value of arms deals between India and Israel has topped $1 billion, according to the report.
Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon told Haaretz that he was excited about the visit. “This visit is incredibly significant for the strengthening ties with a rising world power such as India,” Ya’alon said. “India is a true friend to Israel, and advancing joint interests will greatly benefit both nations and their defence establishments, which have excellent relations.”
Modi has once visited Israel in 2006, while he was the Gujarat chief minister. But no Indian Prime Minister or President has ever visited Israel, and this will be a significant leap since India established “full” diplomatic relationship with Israel in 1992.