Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced his plans to visiting India in January. The announcement comes less than four months after India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Israel — the first ever such visit by a sitting Indian head of the government. The visit will take place at a time when the bilateral relations between both countries are at an all-time high. The last Israeli Prime Minister to visit India was Ariel Sharon almost 14 years ago.

Indian news magazine India Today reported that “Prime Minister Netanyahu could be India’s Republic Day chief guest in January.” No official confirmation to this effect has been made, however the speculation may not be unfounded. Israeli Prime Minister’s visit is widely expected to take place around January 29, the day both countries mark 25 years of full diplomatic ties — the same week when India holds the traditional Republic Day Parade in New Delhi showcasing its economic achievements and military prowess.

Conferring the honor to an Israeli leader will be a significant diplomatic move considering India’s longstanding support for Yasser Arafat’s PLO and country’s strong commercial relations with the major Arab economies. The muted Arab response to Prime Minister Modi’s groundbreaking visit to Jerusalem has already shown the level of insignificance the “Palestinian Cause” has already been downgraded to in the Arab world.

Israeli newspaper Times of Israel broke the news of Prime Minister Netanahu’s upcoming India visit:

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to travel to India in January, he announced Monday following the highly successful visit on the Indian leader to Israel earlier in the year

Netanyahu would be the first Israeli prime minister to visit India since Ariel Sharon went to New Delhi in 2003. Sharon’s trip — the first-ever of an Israeli leader to the country — was cut short by a terrorist attack in Israel.

“In the past year, I have visited all the continent besides Antarctica,” Netanyahu said that opening of the Knesset’s winter session. “And in January, I will make a reciprocal visit to my dear good friend, Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, whose population is a significant part of humanity.”

While most of the Indian news outlets have yet to comment on the developing story, the Indian newspaper The Statesman wrote:

In fact, Modi broke away from the past and visited only Jerusalem and did not stop over in Palestine as had been traditionally done by any Indian leader visiting the region. (…)

Diplomatic sources in New Delhi said the exact dates of the visit would be worked out through diplomatic consultations between the two sides. Over the past three-and-a-half years, Netanyahu and Modi have met on quite a few occasions and established a personal rapport between them..

Since India established full diplomatic ties with Israeli 25 years ago, cooperation in the fields of technology and commerce has increased exponentially. The trade between both countries has risen from a modest $200 million in early 1990s to over $4 billion in recent years.

During his July visit, Prime Minister Modi signed a series of agreements aimed at boosting bilateral cooperation in the fields of agriculture, water conservation, technology and space exploration. In July, Prime Minister Netanyahu had announced the setting up of an Innovation Fund with the seed money of $40 million to promote research in manufacturing and industrial technology.

The Isreal-India cooperation is not limited to state agencies alone, Indian corporate players are investing big in Israel too. Indian multi-nationals like Tata, Reliance and Infosys have made big-ticket investments in Israel’s technology firms and start-ups.

“My young friends, you are the technology and innovation bridge between India and Israel. Both I and Benjamin Netanyahu are convinced that the backbone of our ties will be science, innovation and research,” Prime Minister Modi told Israeli entrepreneurs during his visit. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit is expected to cement the existing bilateral trade and technology ties even further.

Video: Latest developments in Israel-India defence relationship:


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