Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's trip to India appears to be in doubt

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has moved his country closer to Israel since taking office in 2014

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu planned to visit in India in February. AFP
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu planned to visit in India in February. AFP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears unlikely to make a planned trip to India this month for another meeting with Indian counterpart Narendra Modi because both leaders have several other international commitments and are also tied up with preparations for general elections, according to reports.

India's foreign ministry said Mr Netanyahu planned to make a "short working visit", following up on his five-day trip in January last year when he led a 120-member trade delegation. However, the ministry has not confirmed a date, saying only that "the dates and other details of the visit are still being worked out" in a statement on January 31.

The Israeli prime minister had originally proposed to arrive on Monday as part of a wider international outreach before the Israeli elections in April 9, a senior diplomatic source told The Hindu newspaper. He is expected at the Middle East security summit being convened by the United States in Warsaw on Wednesday and Thursday, where the threat from Iran will be one of the main topics on the agenda.

Alternative dates are being discussed but "it is looking difficult", the newspaper quoted a diplomatic source as saying.

For his part, Mr Modi will be hosting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on February 19-20, followed by Argentine President Mauricio Macri. He is also scheduled to travel to South Korea on February 21 to receive a peace prize awarded by an NGO.

Mr Modi and Mr Netanyahu appear to have developed a strong bond and ties between their countries have strengthened under the Indian prime minister, particularly in defence and trade. In 2017, Mr Modi became the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel, while Mr Netanyahu's trip last year was only the second by an Israeli prime minister since Ariel Sharon visited in 2003.

Mr Netanyahu is facing a strong challenge from a former Israeli former chief in his bid for a fifth term in office, while Mr Modi is seeking a second term in power for his Bharatiya Janata Party after worrying setbacks in recent state elections.

Mr Modi also faces anger from farmers who accuse him of failing to address the problems of India's vast agricultural sector, while a recent government report showing unemployment at its highest level in 45 years has put the focus on his promise to create more jobs during his 2014 electoral campaign.

Updated: February 10, 2019 01:20 PM

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