India is preparing to host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in mid-January in what would signal qualitative upgrade of partnership, coming less than a year after Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel.
This would be the second trip by an Israeli PM to India, the first being by Ariel Sharon in 2003 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was heading the government. Defence, counter-terror, development, research, trade partnerships and developments in West Asia are expected to dominate Netanyahu’s agenda on the occasion of 25 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Both sides are preparing for a possible visit by the Israeli PM in the middle of January and exact dates are being worked out, persons familiar with the matter indicated. Joint defence production could be a key item on the agenda, hinted one of the persons quoted above. Current developments in West Asia that has split the region into two camps will be a crucial item on the agenda of the Summit meet. India, on its part, is expected to emphasise on a two-state solution which allows Israel and Palestine to coexist.
Sharon’s trip — the firstever by an Israeli PM here — was cut short by a terrorist attack back home. This July, Modi became the first Indian PM to visit the Jewish state. “You may have seen the pictures,” Netanyahu recalled while speaking at the United Nations General Assembly in September.
“We were on a beach in Hadera. We rode together in a jeep outfitted with a portable desalination device that some thriving Israeli entrepreneur invented. We took off our shoes, waded into the Mediterranean and drank sea water that had been purified only a few minutes earlier. We imagined the endless possibilities for Israel, India — for all humanity.” Modi publicly invited to Netanyahu to visit his country “at a mutually convenient time”, during a July 5 press conference in Jerusalem.
“This is a deeply moving moment for me, both personal, and also in national and international terms,” Netanyahu had said at that time. “I have a feeling that today, India and Israel are changing our world, and maybe, changing parts of the world. Because this is a cooperation, it’s a marriage really made in heaven, but we’re implementing it here on earth.”
Strengthening the relationship with Israel which is strategic and mutually beneficial for trade and investment makes sense. The joint statement between India and Israel earlier this year stressed on combating growing radicalisation and terrorism, while underscoring reliance on dialogue and restraint. At the same time, New Delhi is not taking sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and is committed to resolution which is democratic. That’s a reflection of our maturity in foreign policy.