Modi to be first Indian premier to visit Israel

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be travelling to Israel, the first such visit by an Indian prime minister to the Jewish country with which bilateral defence cooperation is on an upswing, Press Trust of India said on Sunday.

No dates have been finalised for Mr Modi`s Israel visit which will take place on mutually convenient dates, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said.

Asked whether Mr Modi will visit Iran, she said no such visit had been finalised so far but he would be visiting Turkey to attend G-20 Summit later this year. Ms Swaraj said she would travel to Iran to attend NAM summit this year. Ms Swaraj said she would be travelling to Israel this year, besides Palestine and Jordan.

Mr Modi visited Israel as chief minister of Gujarat.

India had established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992 though it had recognised the country in 1950. No Indian prime minister or president has ever visited that country.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had become the first premier from that country to visit India in 2003. He is credited with transforming bilateral relations from diminutive defence and trade cooperation to the strategic ties of today.

`As far as my visit is concerned, it will take place this year. I will visit, Israel, Palestine and Jordan. As far as prime minister`s visit is concerned, he will travel to Israel. No dates have been finalised. It will take place as per mutually convenient dates,` she said replying to a question at a press conference.

At the same time, she asserted, `there was no change in India`s policy towards Palestine`.

L.K. Advani had visited Israel when he was Home Minister in the Atal Behari Vajpayee`s government. Jaswant Singh and S.M. Krishna had visited the Jewish nation as external affairs ministers. Recently Home Minister Rajnath Singh had also visited Israel.

Describing Israel as a friendly country, Ms Swaraj said India had never `let down` the Palestinian cause and it will continue to support it. Talking about government`s efforts to reach out to various countries, she said Mr Modi would visit five Central Asian countries including Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan when he travels to Russia to attend the BRICS Summit.

Published in Dawn