Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold an unprecedented bilateral meeting in New York with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday, official sources said.
No Indian leader has had an official meeting with an Israeli counterpart at any multilateral setting, let alone the United Nations General Assembly.
At present, while Israel is one of India’s most important suppliers of arms, and a trusted partner in areas like counterterrorism and cybersecurity, New Delhi has insisted on keeping relations below the public radar. India has also continued to publicly support Palestinian statehood.
Because of Israeli religious observances Netanyahu could not meet Modi on Saturday and it was initially believed the two would not be able to meet. As it is, Netanyahu will arrive as most of the world leaders will have left New York and Modi may be one of the few leaders he will meet.
Modi is known to be a long-standing admirer of Israel, not only because of its military capabilities but also because of Israeli expertise in dryland agriculture and water management.
The Israeli ambassador was said to be among only three foreign envoys who had nearly unlimited access to Modi in the past. Modi sees Israel as the obvious homeland security partner for India at a time of heightened terror threats emanating from West Asia and the AfPak region.
Home minister Rajnath Singh is expected to speak at a security conference in Israel in November. Foreign minister Sushma Swaraj will visit soon after. Israel will hope that this will all eventually lead up to an invitation to Netanyahu to come as a state guest to New Delhi.