Modi set to become first Indian prime minister to visit Israel
NEW DELHI / TEL AVIV — Narendra Modi would become the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel when he arrives on Tuesday, the result of growing ties that have led to billions of dollars in defense deals.
Israel, in constant search of allies to vote in its favor at UN bodies as well as business partners, has been portraying the visit as historic.
Modi will not travel to Ramallah, the seat of the Palestinian Authority and a customary stop for visiting leaders trying to maintain a balance in political ties, during his three-day stay.
Modi did however meet Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas in New Delhi in May.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the visit, which marks 25 years since the two countries established diplomatic relations, a “further expression of the state of Israel’s military, economic and diplomatic strength”.
“This is a very significant step in strengthening relations between the two countries,” he said.
“India is a huge country with more than 1.25 billion people and is one of the world’s largest, growing economies. Ties between Israel and India are on a constant upswing.”
But while Israel, with a population of eight million, has held the visit up as a diplomatic victory, both countries have practical reasons for the trip.
India is the world’s biggest importer of defense equipment, and Israel has become one of its major suppliers.
Israeli media have reported that the two countries see more than $1 billion in defense deals each year.
India has been investing tens of billions in updating its Soviet-era military hardware. It has signed several big-ticket defense deals since Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party stormed to power in 2014.
In April, state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries said India would buy nearly $2 billion worth of weapons technology, making it the military exporting giant’s largest defense contract.
The deal will see IAI provide India with an advanced defense system of mediumrange surface-to-air missiles, launchers and communications technology.
India ... is one of the world’s largest, growing economies. Ties between Israel and India are on a constant upswing.” Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli prime minister
It later announced a deal worth $630 million to provide India’s navy with missile defense systems.
Israel, the United States and Russia are India’s top military suppliers, and Modi’s government has said it will favor countries that are ready to share technology.
Modi will also be discussing a plan for Israeli help in boosting India’s food security, officials said.
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