External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will embark on an official visit to Palestine and Israel from January 15, months before Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s much-awaited trip to West Asia in the latter half of 2016.
Swaraj’s trip to Israel will kickstart a busy diplomatic schedule between the two countries that are keen on expanding their areas of cooperation to counter-terrorism and defence sectors. The visit comes amid rising influence of the Islamic State terror group beyond the borders of Iraq and Syria.
New Delhi will likely host Israel President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before Modi heads to Jerusalem. However, like their predecessors, Swaraj and Modi will visit Palestine before heading to Israel, government sources said.
In October, President Pranab Mukherjee became the first Indian head of state to visit Israel where he reiterated India’s position that New Delhi’s ties with Jerusalem were independent of its support to the Palestinian cause.