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Will PM Narendra Modi Make His First-Ever Visit to Israel This Year?

India and Israel are expected to mark their 25 years of diplomatic ties with the most high-profile visit – that of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the first half of 2017.

This will be the Indian Prime Minister's first-ever trip to the Jewish nation and will mark a significant shift from the traditional foreign policy that forced New Delhi to keep its diplomatic and military transactions as low key as possible.

India-Israel established formal ties in 1992 but high-profile visits have been rare. That has changed under the Modi government.

Pranab Mukherjee went to Israel in 2016 in a historic first visit by an Indian President and his Israeli counterpart Reuven Rivlin spent a full week in India a few months later. In between, there have been several other high-profile bilateral visits of ministers.

"Well, if you look back… despite the fact that India-Israel relations are good and sound, some reasons, the visibility was low key. That was part of a larger policy that India had in the past which we feel is changing. One of the characteristics of our bilateral relations is being visible and not shying away from talking about it and this gives more strength and dynamism to the relations," said Daniel Carmon, Israeli ambassador in India, in an interview to Governance Now magazine.

The Israeli Ambassador didn't confirm any fixed date for PM Modi's visit in the interview but sources in India's Foreign Ministry say the chances of a standalone visit are very high. And this may happen after mid-March this year because of the budget session and state elections.

Making a case for a standalone visit to Israel, P.R. Kumaraswamy wrote in the journal of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses: "A standalone visit to Israel will not only be in line with Modi’s engagement with the Middle East but would also send a powerful message to the international community that India is no longer apologetic about befriending Israel. In practical terms, that would mean strategic Indian investments in hi-tech industries in Israel including military industry, cyber security, nanotechnology, alternative energy, and recycling, and India becoming a partner in technology development and sharing."

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