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India-Israel ties: Under Modi, Congress tradition of being apologetic about this relationship ends

Thursday, March 9, 2017 0:07
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Ever since Narendra Modi assumed office in May 2014, the question of him becoming the first Prime Minister of India to visit Israel was never in doubt. After all, Modi has a special attachment to Israel — a country that had made considerable investments in Gujarat when he was the chief minister. Modi, it is said, strongly believes that Israel can play an important role towards the success of his “Make in India” programme too.

Additionally, Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has always admired Israel for its pride in nationalism and respect for the military. In what was the first-of-its-kind by an Indian political party, it was the BJP convention in October 1991 that called for establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel. In fact, it was BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who as the then external affairs minister, had arranged a secret visit of his the then Israeli counterpart Moshé Dayan to India in 1978. And as the Prime Minister of India, Vajpayee, in September 2003, had also hosted Israeli premier Ariel Sharon.

However, the question always was when Modi would undertake his maiden visit to Israel. Now that question has been answered. Though a detailed itinerary is yet to be worked out, it is almost certain that Modi will make a trip to Israel in May or June and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to visit India before 29 January, 2018, the official closing-date of the yearlong anniversary celebrations to mark 25 years since India and Israel established full diplomatic relations.

Even otherwise, during the past two-and-a-half years, top leaders from India and Israel have had increased interactions. In fact, Modi had met Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2014. The meeting was so positive that Netanyahu had said that “the sky is the limit”, as far as India-Israel relations were concerned.

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