x

Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Modi in first trip to Israel by India prime minister

India has traditionally trodden a careful diplomatic line in the region, wary of upsetting Arab states and Iran - upon whom it relies for its vast imports of oil - and its large Muslim minority. It has been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, even as it quietly pursued ties with Israel.

India's prime minister Narendra Modi (R) hugs Israeli president Reuven Rivlin after reading a joint statement at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on November 15, 2016. Adnan Abidi / Reuters
India's prime minister Narendra Modi (R) hugs Israeli president Reuven Rivlin after reading a joint statement at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on November 15, 2016. Adnan Abidi / Reuters

NEW DELHI // Narendra Modi will become the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel on Tuesday, aiming to reach deals with the Israel government on arms sales.

India has traditionally trodden a careful diplomatic line in the region, wary of upsetting Arab states and Iran - upon whom it relies for its vast imports of oil - and its large Muslim minority. It has been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, even as it quietly pursued ties with Israel.

But now Mr Modi is lifting the curtain on a thriving military relationship. He will hold three days of talks with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to advance sales and production of missiles, drones and radar systems under his signature "Make in India" drive, officials in Delhi and Tel Aviv have said.

Mr Netanyahu, hailing what he described as Mr Modi's "historic visit", said on Monday that he and the Indian prime minister have worked together in recent years to build a "steadfast friendship" between Israel and India.

"This visit will deepen cooperation in a wide range of fields - security, agriculture, water, energy - basically in almost every field Israel is involved in," Mr Netanyahu said.

Mr 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.

At home, the apparent shift in what has long been a bedrock of India's foreign policy risks sharpening criticism that the country's 180 million Muslims are increasingly being marginalised under Mr Modi's Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, which swept to power in 2014.

"Narendra Modi's visit to Israel will only strengthen its occupation of Palestine," said Asaduddin Owaisi, a member of India's federal parliament from a regional group that promotes Muslim rights.

In previous decades, when India was governed by the left-wing Congress party, former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was a regular visitor to New Delhi, and was at one point pictured hugging then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi.

In May, Mr Modi hosted Arafat's successor, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, and offered help in health and information technology, but the trip was low-key.

RELATED ARTICLES
Recommended