Israeli President Reuven Rivilin is scheduled to visit India on a six day state trip from November 15. The last Israeli state head to visit India was Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2003. The visit in diplomatic circles is being seen as a huge step forward in the soaring bilateral relationship. Reuven Rivlin during his visit is expected to drop into Delhi, Mumbai and Chandigarh.

Accompanying Mr. Rivlin during his visit will be a high-level delegation comprising of investors, officials and policy planners. The delegation is expected to meet their counterparts in an effort to boost bilateral investments.

Mr.Rivlin is expected to meet President Pranab Mukhurjee, PM Narendra Modi and several key ministers in New Delhi. Both countries will work towards expediting mutual co-operation in various fields.

India formally identified the state of Israel in September 1953. Fully fledged diplomatic relationship was set-up in 1992. Ever since, the relationship has been on a high trajectory. Both the countries have concentrated on developing agricultural technologies, efficient usage of water and dairy resources, answering mutual security needs and development of advanced military hardware systems.

India and Israel’s mutual trade quotient stood at a mere US $200 million in 1992. By 2015, the military business alone had clocked a whopping US $9 Billion. India currently is the tenth largest trade partner of Israel amounting up to US $16 billion of bilateral trade. India and Israel have forged relationships on the bedrock of mutual trust and respect.

President Pranab Mukhurjee had visited the Middle Eastern country in October 2015. Several joint development and research programs were proposed by the nations. Rivlin’s visit is expected to see through these programs. During his bilateral with PM Modi, Rivlin is expected to stress for finalizing the bilateral free trade agreement. Significant programs which promise to boost co-operation in the field of irrigation, urban area development, agriculture and dairy farming are also expected to be concluded.

Security and Defence co-operation dialogues are expected to be taken up. Talks will concentrate on identifying newer avenues where co-development is possible. Israel is currently the third largest defence equipment supplier to India. Several multi-billion programs under ‘Make in India’ initiative are in the pipeline.

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President Mukhurjee is expected to accompany Rivlin to Chandigarh where a slew of cultural programs is planned to entertain the high-level delegation. Programs like these not only boost cultural ties but also promote people-people connections. It is these connections that have helped the strategic partners steer through turbulent waters.

This visit comes at a time, when India is doing away with its traditional status-quo situation, when it comes to Middle Eastern affairs. India for years has maintained a delicate balancing act when it comes to maintaining its relations with Israel and Palestine. Ever since the NDA-led government took over, India’s Middle Eastern policy has been ratified.

In July this year, India abstained itself from voting when UNHRC took up the alleged ‘war crimes’ issue. In October, India again abstained when UNESCO took up a resolution which would deny Israel claims over its capital city of Jerusalem. This was a major turnaround given the fact that India had voted ‘for’ the resolutions a couple of months back.

PM Modi has been vocal about his support to Israel. His counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly supported India on several world stages when it comes to Kashmir issue. Netanyahu has openly condemned Pakistan and has labelled it a ‘global terror exporter’.

India and Israel are perhaps the most affected countries since global Jihad was launched. President Revlin and his delegation are expected to engage top MHA and NSA officials to address these pressing issues. Efforts will also be made to ratify internal security co-operation dialogues.

Mr. Revlin is expected to lobby hard for seeing through PM Narendra Modi’s planned visit to Israel. PM Modi had aired his interest in visiting the nation shortly after he met Netanyahu on the sidelines of United State General Assembly.

Indo - Israeli developed MRSAM being test fired from off Odisha coast.

Indo – Israeli developed MRSAM being test fired from off Odisha coast.

The visit had gathered pace after Sushma Swaraj, India’s External Affairs minister, visited Israel in January. Her visit was largely seen as build-up to Modi’s imminent jaunt to Middle East. But little progress has been made in this regard. Diplomatic circle accounts this to the reservations that exist amongst policy makers at the MEA. A visit to Israel is bound to tip off the balance India has maintained when dealing with the Middle Eastern region.

Nevertheless, Israel remains to be a key strategic partner in India’s leap towards assuming a ‘world power’ status. Both the countries share a unique relationship which is time tested and is solidified by mutual trust. Indian and Israeli population themselves are vocal in their support to the development of Indo-Israeli relations. President Revlin’s visit is bound to take these relationships to newer heights.

© Karthik Kakoor