Indian President Pranab Mukherjee is set to become the first head of the state from India to visit Israel. The visit by the Indian head of the state, set for early October, has a great symbolic value — considering India only established full diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992. Much like Israel, India too is a parliamentary democracy where President acts as a ceremonial head of the state, while executive powers rest with the Prime Minister and the cabinet. The high-level state visit is the result of tenuous diplomacy spanning decades that saw an erstwhile adversarial Asian giant turn into a trusted ally.

Since India and Israel established diplomatic relations 24 years ago, Israel has become an important trade and technology partner for India — not just in defence sector. Bilateral trade between the two countries that was pegged at $200 million in early 1990s has now crossed well over $4 billion. In recent months, Israeli defense companies like Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), Rafael and Meprolight have entered in partnerships with Indian companies to form defence Joint Ventures – giving boost to Prime Minister Modi’s “Make in India” initiative aimed to develop India’s manufacturing capabilities.

India and Israel are not only developing high-end defence technology together — like ‘Barak 8’ surface-to-air missile, but varied fields like space researchcancer treatment, water and agriculture research.

Indian IT and Tech firms competing internationally, have come to value Israel’s edge in technology and innovation. In recent years, Indian multinationals have shown keen interest in Israeli research and innovation — acquiring start-ups, recruiting talent, setting up research centres and investing in educational institutions. In February 2015, Indian IT-firm Infosys acquired Israeli automation technology company Panaya for estimated $200 million. India’s TI-giants Infosys and Wipro have shored up war-chests worth $500 million and $100 million respectably, competing for the best talent in Silicon Valley and Israel. India’s Tata Group is the lead investor in Tel Aviv University’s $20 million Technology Fund.

With election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP-led nationalist alliance in May 2014, India has also shown strong political will to strengthen ties with the Jewish State.

Indian business daily Economic Times described the policy shift saying:

There was a view in the current policy establishment, backed by some influential BJP [India’s ruling party] and RSS [prominent Hindu organisation] leaders, that India must be more assertive about its relationship with Israel. (…) Israel had thanked India, and Palestine had expressed dismay [over the announcement of Indian President’s visit to Israel].

Premier Narendra Modi’s highly anticipated visit to Israel is still very much on the cards. A leading Indian newspaper The Hindu quoted multiple official sources confirming PM Modi’s visit to take place in early 2016.

Times of Israel quoted an Israeli official confirming Indian Prime Minister’s impending state visit:

A senior official familiar with the issue admitted Tuesday that Modi’s trip will likely be delayed due to Mukherjee’s earlier visit, but said the development was not a compromise, as in foreign relations a presidential visit is considered better for developing bilateral ties than one by a prime minister.

India’s Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj is also expected to visit the Jewish State soon. Minister Swaraj is India’s first women to hold the office of Foreign Minister. A widely respected politician, she presided over the India-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group  between 2006-2009 and regards late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir as her political role model.

World’s largest democracy and home to the world’s second largest Muslim population, India is putting aside ideological baggage of the Cold War-era to pursue an independent foreign policy driven by national interest and economic goals.

Video — Earlier this month, Israel’s envoy to India Ambassador Daniel Carmon talked to an Indian TV Channel on growing India-Israel relations, including the prospects of PM Narendra Modi’s visit: