Israeli President Reuven Rivlin has said that his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee’s visit next week, the first by an Indian head of state, is an “important milestone” in bilateral ties and will deepen their friendship.
In the highest-level visit by an Indian leader since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992, Israel is all set to extend a warm welcome to Mukherjee with Rivlin, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Speaker of the Knesset (parliament) Yuli Edelstein and opposition leader Isaac Herzog scheduled to meet him to discuss issues of regional and bilateral interests.
“The upcoming visit of the President of India, more than being an important milestone in the relationship of the two countries, will serve to deepen the friendship between our states, in the fields of economy, science, medicine, and agriculture,” President Rivlin said.
“I am looking forward to the meeting, which will represent one of the highlights of the relationship between the Israeli and Indian peoples,” he added.
Mukherjee is scheduled to be in Israel from October 13 to 15 during his six-day trip to West Asia during which he would also be visiting Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.
In a rare gesture reflecting the warmth of the ties enjoyed between the two countries, Mukherjee will also address a special session of the Knesset besides receiving an honourary doctorate from the prestigious Hebrew University.
The Indian Head of State’s visit comes at a time of massive unrest in the region with clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians spreading further touching the central areas of Israel near the Tel Aviv region.
There has been a massive hype in the local media around Indo-Israel ties since the BJP came to power. Netanyahu had said that “sky is the limit” in bilateral cooperation during a meeting with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New York last year on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
The two leaders are said to be in constant touch and the Israeli media recently attributed India’s abstention at a vote on a resolution against Israel at the UNHRC to the developing chemistry between the two leaders.
In July, India abstained in a vote on a UNHRC resolution that backed a report critical of Israel’s behaviour during 2014 Gaza war, a move that was “shocking” to the Palestinians and an unprecedented “achievement” for Tel Aviv.
India later clarified that the vote was a “principled” stand and did not show any change in its voting behavioural pattern, an explanation to which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “understood and accepted”.
While the Indian President’s visit is being widely awaited in the Israeli circles, some sections of the local media have expressed disappointment at Modi’s “expected” visit not coming through this year.