Narendra Modi leaves for Israel: First Indian PM to visit Tel Aviv, will also be only one to give Palestine a miss

In what has been touted as a "very significant step" towards strengthening bilateral relations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to be the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel on Tueday. Modi's trip is expected to bring in a new era in New Delhi-Tel Aviv ties.

The timing of Modi's trip is also significant because it marks 25 years of diplomatic ties between the two countries. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going out of his way in assuring a comfortable and "historic" trip for his Indian counterpart.

 Narendra Modi leaves for Israel: First Indian PM to visit Tel Aviv, will also be only one to give Palestine a miss

File image of Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi. PTI

According to a The Times of India report, the Modi-Netanyahu summit will be like no other. Modi is expected to get a unique welcome at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport when he lands. Netanyahu, in a first and as a departure of normal practice, will accompany Modi throughout his three days in the country.

Living up to the title of a world leader in social media given by US president Donald Trump, Modi is expected to rely more on social media for public outreach during his trip to Israel. In a first, Modi and Netanyahu are expected to do either a Facebook live or a periscope chat with the people.

Further, Modi will also continue the tradition of interacting with Indians overseas. He will hold a mass rally in Israel, a first by any Indian leader travelling to Tel Aviv. The Jerusalem Post reported that Modi is expected to address around 4,000-5000 Indians at Tel Aviv Fairgrounds on Wednesday evening. "One thing our prime minister likes to do is connect with Indians overseas, not just Indian nationals, but people of Indian origin," India's ambassador to Israel, Pavan Kapoor said.

The Indian community has even launched a website in preparation of the visit.

Modi, in a special gesture, will meet Moshe Holtzberg, the Israeli child who was just two years old when he lost his parents in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack. Modi's decision to meet Moshe, now 10, has been welcomed by the child's family which said that the gesture made them realise that Indians share their pain and they have not been forgotten.

Another significant decision taken by the Modi government to the pleasure of Israel is not scheduling a trip to Palestine. According to BBC, India and Israel's diplomatic relations have always been a balancing act given India's sizeable Muslim population.

Since the NDA government came to power in 2014, both President Pranab Mukherjee and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj visited Palestine during their Israel trip. Marking a tectonic shift in equations, Modi's visit will be the first time that an Indian leader has decided to skip the neighbouring country. Infact, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi said that by doing so, the prime minister is "strengthening the Jewish state's occupation of Palestinian territories."

Although, it was Union minister Rajnath Singh who broke the tradition of visiting both Israel and Palestine together during his visit in 2014, as The Times of India reported, Modi will be the first Indian prime minister to do so.

Despite reiterating that "India believes in a two-state solution in which both Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist peacefully", Modi skipping a visit to Palestine is seen as a more powerful signal than all the courtesies that await him, writes PR Kumaraswamy for Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.

Both countries share a deep civilisational, cultural and people-to-people bond but due to India's compulsions in balancing its West Asia policy, Israel was treated more as a 'mistress', this Firstpost article argues. Therefore, Kapoor termed Modi's trip as the first "formal coming out of the relationship" between the two countries, as The Indian Express reported.

Enamoured by the "most important prime minister of the world", Tel Aviv expressed its keenness to shift production lines of its weapons to India, keeping in line with Modi's 'Make in India' initiative. India is set to get its first armed drones — The Heron TP — that may aid in cross-border strikes and can also detect, track and take down targets with air to ground missiles.

Since Modi ascended to power in 2014, Israel has hoped for warmer ties with New Delhi. Modi, who had visited Israel as the chief minister of Gujarat, suggested, "as the possible next prime minister, he could make history by journeying to the Jewish state," according to The Times of Israel. Modi's trip to Israel is indeed making history but it remains to be seem how New Delhi will maintain its ties with Palestine after the much politicised Tel-Aviv trip.

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Updated Date: Jul 04, 2017 13:13:47 IST

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