Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is planning to visit Israel, a trip that would make him the first Indian premier to do so. India was among the first few countries to recognize Israel as a nation and the two countries currently enjoy a close economic and military relationship.
While the dates of the planned visit have not yet been announced, it will take place “as per mutually convenient dates,” India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj reportedly said, on Sunday. It is not yet clear whether Modi -- who has, in the past, referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as “my friend Bibi” -- will visit Palestine and meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during his planned trip.
Swaraj also said that she would visit Israel, Palestine and Jordan later this year, adding that there is “no change” in India’s support to the Palestinian cause.
In September, marking a shift in the balancing act India has traditionally employed when it comes to relations with Israel and Palestine, Modi met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly but did not meet Abbas, who was in New York at the same time.
India officially recognized Israel in 1950, less than a year after it voted against the Middle Eastern nation’s admission to the United Nations. In July last year, it also voted against Israel by backing a Palestinian resolution in the U.N., just days after its Bharatiya Janata Party-led government refused to pass a resolution in parliament condemning Israel for the deaths of civilians in the Gaza Strip.
“[We] fully support the Palestinian cause while maintaining good relations with Israel,” Swaraj reportedly said at the time.
However, diplomatic ties between India and Israel, which were only established in 1992, have become increasingly strong in recent years. India is currently the largest buyer of Israeli military equipment. Many believe that the perceived pro-Israel shift in India’s foreign policy under the Hindu nationalist BJP-led government points toward an ideological sympathy for Israel’s cause.
“India is a true friend to Israel, and advancing joint interests will greatly benefit both nations and their defense establishments, which have excellent relations,” Moshe Ya’alon reportedly said in February, during the first public visit to India by an Israeli defense minister since 1992.