Israel President Reuven Rivlin’s visit to India next week is expected to set the stage for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s long-awaited trip to Tel Aviv sometime in 2017.
“A visit by Prime Minister Modi will happen for sure, and it will be a very important one,” Israel ambassador Daniel Carmon said on Thursday. Refusing to get into specifics, he said the Indian leader’s visit will take place on the “nearest possible date” and during the “relevant period”.
India had been awaiting Rivlin’s visit to reciprocate President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Israel in October last year, the first by an Indian head of state. Israeli and Indian officials had indicated that Modi would travel to Israel once the president’s visit had been reciprocated.
Carmon’s remark about a “relevant period” was an apparent reference to 2017, when the two countries will mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. Modi will be the first Indian premier to visit Israel.
During Rivlin’s visit, the two sides will sign 15 memorandums of understanding between universities to boost academic and research cooperation, Carmon said. The Israeli President will be accompanied by a large delegation of businessmen, including representatives of defence firms, and 12 chancellors of universities.
Rivlin will be the first Israeli head of state to visit India since early 1997, when Ezer Weizman had travelled to New Delhi and negotiated one of the first defence deals between the two countries. Since then Israel has emerged as one of the key suppliers of hi-tech military hardware to India.
In a bid to address the sensitivities of countries in the Arab world, minister of state for external affairs MJ Akbar visited Palestine this week to co-chair the first meeting of a bilateral joint commission.
Carmon was reluctant to get into the specifics of defence cooperation, saying it had progressed beyond a “buyer-to-seller relationship” to joint development of systems. “Our defence cooperation is the type of cooperation which helps our relationship and is in the national interests of both sides,” he said.
“Israel was one of the first countries to adopt the Make in India programme and there are plans for joint ventures,” he added.
Carmon also referred to cooperation in other areas such as water management and agriculture, noting that Israel is helping India set up 40 centres of excellence in agriculture in nine states. “Fifteen of these centres are fully operational in states like Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Maharashtra,” he said.
During his visit, Rivlin will meet Mukherjee, vice president Hamid Ansari, Modi and other government officials in Delhi. Rivlin will also travel to Mumbai and inaugurate the AgroTech conference in Chandigarh with Mukherjee.