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Narendra Modi set to become first Indian PM to visit Israel

03 Juillet 2017

Hailed as a "very significant step" in strengthening bilateral relations that are on a "constant upswing", Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Israel, the first ever by an Indian premier will elevate ties and sign several agreements between the two countries.

The Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is also excited about Modi's visit as he characterized the visit as "historic", and said he will accompany the Indian Prime Minister to numerous sites during his visit.

"Tomorrow, I begin a historic visit to Israel, a very special partner of India's". India's growing ties with Israel after the BJP's ascent to power in May 2014, however, fuelled speculation about New Delhi reviewing its position on Palestine.

India largely depends on Israel for its defence requirements with over $1 billion worth imports coming from Israel.

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.

Stating that there has been cooperation going on in the agriculture sector B Bala Bhaskar, Joint Secretary (West Asia and North Africa) in the Ministry of External Affairs, told IANS, "With the help of Israel we have established centres of excellence in various states aimed at increasing productivity, crop management, and water management".

But while Israel has held the visit up as a diplomatic victory, both countries have practical reasons for the trip.

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But as they say, the foreign policy decision can not be made on the basis of "my friend's enemy is my enemy", the ties with Israel hold key importance for India.

The centrepiece of the collaboration is the Barack 8 air defence system, built jointly by the two countries in a boost for Modi's campaign to develop a domestic defence industry.

Kapoor also said that the leaders of the two countries will also discuss defence and counter-terrorism cooperation. Today when you talk about cyber or advanced technology, it is an advantage to say we are an Israeli company.

The shifting grounds in the West Asia and a new overtly pro-Israel establishment in the U.S. means that India under Modi might steer clear of the thorny question of Palestine now, and veer more towards Israel. Owing to its lack of natural resources, the country has been largely dependent on innovation.

An opinion piece in Haaretz - Israel's longest-running newspaper now in print - states: "According to a recent World Bank report, the Indian economy is expected to grow by 7.2 percent by 2018 and to an unprecedented 7.5 percent by 2019". Among the measures proposed include the establishment of a 40 million United States dollars joint fund to encourage Israeli and Indian business cooperation, agreements permitting and extending incentives to Bollywood filmmakers looking to shoot in Israel, efforts to promote growth in tourism and a joint government project in the fields of water and agriculture.

Modi wants Indian companies involved in turning these small centres into commercial entities that would help tens of thousands of farmers to boost productivity.

Narendra Modi set to become first Indian PM to visit Israel