The groundwork has begun for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Israel in July this year with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on a quiet two-day visit to Tel Aviv. Doval left for Israel on February 28 and is expected back on March 3.
The Modi government remains tight-lipped about the NSA’s tour, but Doval is understood to have met Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well his counterpart Yosef Cohen who also heads the intelligence agency Mossad. Doval’s visit will lay the foundation for Modi’s visit—the first ever by an Indian prime minister—to celebrate 25 years of diplomatic ties and take the bilateral relationship to a new level. Doval will be followed by Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar in the run-up to Modi’s visit.
South Block officials told Hindustan Times that Doval is not only expected to finalize the dates of Modi’s visit—the first week of July appears likely—but also discuss the security and defence agenda for the visit. It is learnt that both sides have exchanged views of regional developments, including those in Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, with Tel Aviv worried at the role of Tehran in destabilizing West Asia. The involvement of China-Pakistan-Russia-Iran axis in supporting the Taliban against the Islamic State in the Af-Pak region has also been a cause for concern for both India and Israel as well as the Western powers.
During the visit, Modi is expected to ink a $2.5-billion deal to jointly develop medium-range surface-to-air missiles for the Indian Army. Other projects in the pipeline include third generation Spike anti-tank guided missile systems, Spyder quick reaction surface-to-air missiles as well as the acquisition of two more of the PHALCON Airborne Warning and Control System. India and Israel have institutionalized ties at the security agency level with both sides sharing critical information related to terrorism.
Modi’s visit will move beyond the security relationship with Israel and into close bilateral cooperation in trade, agriculture and top-end technology. A free trade agreement is also being looked at as a possibility.