Indian PM snubs Palestine on historic visit to Israel

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three-day visit to Israel starts on Tuesday. The visit is the first by an Indian leader to Israel in the countries' 25 years of diplomatic relations.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting in New York in September 2014. (Reuters Archive)

​Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday became the first Indian head of state to visit Israel and publicly embrace the country which he has long admired for military and technical expertise on Tuesday.

Although India has been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, 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.

Instead India and Israel are set to get straight to setting up strategic partnerships in various areas from agriculture to water and space technologies. They are expected to announce deals in these fields during Modi's visit.  

"We will be setting up a joint strategic partnership between Israel and India in the field of water and agriculture and this will be the first time such thing would have been actually decreed upon," senior Israeli officer Mark Sofer said.

The plan is to expand 26 agriculture expertise centres that Israel has set up in 15 Indian states to help increase output of everything from vegetables to mangoes and pomegranates.

But it is the defence relationship that is most advanced between the two countries. India is now Israel's biggest arms market, buying weapons at an average of $1 billion each year.

Modi’s predecessors were keen not to publicly embrace Israel.

They acted carefully, diplomatic analysts say, so as to not to upset its large Muslim minority, and Arab states and Iran upon which India relies for its vast imports of oil.