Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be the first Indian head of government to visit Israel when he meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on June 4, PTI reported on Monday. The two countries are marking 25 years of diplomatic relations in 2017 with the leaders scheduled to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral ties and common challenges. Modi and Netanyahu have met twice at United Nations-related events.
Diplomatically, the three-day visit stands out as India has a history of balancing its ties with the sparring Israel and Palestinian governments. Modi will not travel to Ramallah, which is the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters, NDTV reported. Most international leaders visiting Tel Aviv also visit Ramallah to symbolically even out the diplomatic relations.
Netanyahu is scheduled to receive Modi at the airport, a courtesy normally reserved for the Pope, PTI reported. The Israeli leader has described Modi’s unprecedented visit as “historic”.
“I will have in-depth talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu on the full spectrum of our partnership and strengthening it in diverse fields for mutual benefit,” Modi posted on Facebook. “We will also have the chance to discuss major common challenges like terrorism.” With India currently ranked as Israel’s biggest armaments market, defence discussions will be high on the agenda, NDTV reported.
The leaders are expected to ink several agreements in the sectors of innovation, development, science and technology and space. The news agency said the two governments plan on signing a deal involving the Uttar Pradesh government to clean a patch of the Ganga. The setting up of an industrial research and development fund worth $40 million (approximately Rs 259 crore) is also on the agenda.
Modi will also meet Israeli President Reuven Ruvi Rivlin, Israeli dignitaries and representatives of the Indian diaspora. “I will join with leading Indian and Israeli chief executive officers and start-ups to discuss our shared priority of expanding business and investment collaboration on the ground,” Modi posted.
The prime minister is also scheduled to visit the Yad Vashem Memorial Museum to honour the memory of Holocaust victims. He will also pay homage to Indian soldiers who died during the liberation of Haifa in 1918.