India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be visiting Israel soon, making him the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the Jewish State. The dates for the historic visit are yet to be finalized, India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj was quoted in Indian media reports. Foreign Minister Mrs. Swaraj is also expected to visit Israel in the coming months.
In 1992, India formally established diplomatic relationship with Israel, after decades of ambivalent stand towards Israel at the UN and other international fora. The bilateral relations have considerably improved since Prime Minister Modi took office about a year ago.
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Since early 1990s bilateral trade has grown from a merger 200 million to more than $6 billion in 2014. In recent years, Israel has emerged as India’s second biggest defense supplier. Indian IT and Technology companies have discovered Israel in a big way, making substantial long-term investments in Israeli start-up and technology eco-system.
Both countries also share a historical and cultural bond stretching across the centuries. Today, nearly 75, 000 Jews of Indian-origin live in Israel.
In May 2014, newly-elected Prime Minister Modi met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while attending the U.N. General Assembly. During his stay in New York, Prime Minister Modi also made a point to meet the leader of the American Jewish community.
Many senior Indian officials from Prime Minister Modi’s government have visited Israel, including the high-profile visit by India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh in November 2014. Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon met Prime Minister Modi during his visit to India in February 2015.
The official announcement came during a press conference in New Delhi called by India’s Ministry of External Affairs to review foreign policy developments upon completion of government’s first year in office.
Foreign Minister Swaraj’s visit is expected to break the ground for Prime Minister Modi’s later State Visit. Indian Foreign Minister would visit Palestinian Authority and Jordan as part of her upcoming tour.
[Author is Indian journalist and Senior Fellow for New York-based policy think-tank Gatestone Institute]