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Narendra Modi to become first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel

30/06/2017


Narendra Modi to become first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel

New Delhi (CNN) Narendra Modi will become the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel, in a landmark visit scheduled for July 4.


Modi will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over a period of two days to discuss "matters of mutual interest," read a press release from India's Ministry of External Affairs.

Modi's itinerary also includes plans to meet with members of the Indian community in Tel Aviv and a visit to honor Indian soldiers buried in Haifa cemetery.

Important ally

Israel has in recent years become an important defense supplier for India. The two countries signed an air and missile defense deal worth almost $2 billion in April, in what Israel termed the "largest defense contract deal" in its history.

"As India seeks to modernize and grow its defense capabilities, it could find an able ally in Israel. The two countries see themselves as bulwarks of democracy in a region rife with illiberal leaders," said CNN New Delhi Bureau Chief Ravi Agrawal.

While India and Israel have a diplomatic relationship dating back to 1992, the July trip would be the first time that an Indian Prime Minister has visited.

Under a program titled "Make in India," Modi has been looking for foreign companies to set up production in India. Modi's trip will likely be viewed as an opportunity to encourage Israeli businesses—comprising everything from diamond merchants to tech firms—to sell their wares in India.

Palestine visit unlikely

In May, Modi hosted Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president for a state dinner and affirmed "India's commitment to the Palestinian cause." He later added that he "earnestly hopes for early resumption of talks between Palestine and Israel leading to the establishment of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine."

However, the schedule for Modi's July trip does not reveal whether it will include a visit to Ramallah, the city where the Palestinian Authority is based. CNN has reached out to India's Foreign Ministry for comment.

"Geopolitically, this (official trip) is yet another example of India's shift away from its policy of non-alignment," said Agrawal.

In the mid-to-late twentieth century, India maintained a policy of non-alignment with the world's foremost military powers.

"During this period New Delhi displayed an unwavering support for the Palestinian cause; it was ideologically closer to the socialist Soviet Union than the capitalist United States. That has now changed," added Agrawal.

On Tuesday, Modi was seen hugging US President Donald Trump in front of the world's cameras, a sign of affection reserved for the leaders of a select few countries.

http://edition.cnn.com/2017/06/29/asia/india-modi-israel/index.html

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