PM Modi heads to Israel
3 July, 2017, 12:00 am
Narendra Modi is making a first visit to Israel by an Indian Prime Minister next week, in a public embrace of a country that he has long admired for its military and technical expertise, but which his predecessors kept at arm’s length.
India has traditionally trodden a careful diplomatic line in the region, analysts say, wary of upsetting Arab states and Iran — upon whom it relies for its vast imports of oil — and its large Muslim minority.
It has been a vocal supporter of the Palestinian cause, even as it quietly pursued ties with Israel.
But now Mr Modi is lifting the curtain on a thriving military relationship. He will hold three days of talks with his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu, to advance sales and production of missiles, drones and radar systems under his signature “Make in India” drive, officials in Delhi and Tel Aviv said.
The Indian leader will not travel to Ramallah, the seat of the Palestine Authority and a customary stop for visiting leaders trying to maintain a balance in political ties.
At home, the apparent shift in what has long been a bedrock of India’s foreign policy risks sharpening criticism that the country’s 180 million Muslims are increasingly being marginalised under Mr Modi’s Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, which swept to power in 2014.
“Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel will only strengthen its occupation of Palestine,” said Asaduddin Owaisi, a member of India’s federal parliament from a regional group that promotes Muslim rights.
In previous decades, under the left-leaning Congress Party, former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was a regular visitor to New Delhi, pictured hugging then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi when the two were championing the Non-Alignment Movement.