Narendra Modi has made the politically-sensitive decision to visit key defence partner Israel, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Sunday, announcing the first trip by an Indian Prime Minister to the Jewish nation that is a pariah for most of New Delhi’s traditional Arab allies.
In a press conference to mark one year of the NDA government, Swaraj also said there will not be any talks with Pakistan under the shadow of terror and there was no decision on resuming cricketing ties, while the Teesta water- sharing pact was off the table during Modi’s visit to Bangladesh this month.
“As far as my visit (to Israel) is concerned, it will take place this year. I will visit Israel, Palestine and Jordan,” said the minister, flanked by foreign secretary S Jaishankar and a posse of senior ministry officials in the audience. “As far as the Prime Minister’s visit is concerned, he will travel to Israel. No dates have been finalised. It will take place as per mutually convenient dates.”
The two countries that formalised full diplomatic ties in 1992 enjoy extensive economic, defence and strategic relations, while they share an annual trade volume of about $5 billion with India emerging as the largest buyer of Israeli military equipment.
Sources say a foreign office consultation between New Delhi and Jerusalem is expected in July to thrash out the details of Swaraj’s visit, while Modi could travel to the West Asian nation in November when he will attend the G-20 summit in Turkey.
Ties between the two countries have been on the upswing under Modi who visited Israel in 2006 as chief minister of Gujarat to explore new ideas in agricultural technology.
Officials also indicated India was examining the possibility of the Prime Minister visiting Egypt and Palestine as well, though a final call will be made only after Swaraj completes her trip to the region.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon became the first premier from that country to visit India when he came here in 2003. There have been ministerial visits from India to Israel, with the latest one being home minister Rajnath Singh’s trip in November.
Veteran BJP leader L K Advani visited Israel when he was the home minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government while Jaswant Singh and SM Krishna travelled there as foreign ministers.
Swaraj also said there is no change in India’s support for the Palestinian cause, underscoring the political tightrope successive Indian governments have had to walk in the West Asian region.