External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will visit Israel and Palestine on January 17-18 to strengthen India’s engagement with the two countries and to pave the way for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit later this year. As foreign minister, this will be Swaraj’s first visit to West Asia, a strategically important region. Her first stop will be Palestine, where she will hold talks with the country’s leadership with an aim to boost bilateral engagement.
“The visit will also reaffirm India’s continued political, diplomatic and developmental support to Palestine,” ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said, adding the trip will “deepen the mutual understanding at the political level and boost bilateral engagement with Palestine”.
After her engagements in Palestine on January 17, Swaraj will go to Israel the same day for a two-day visit, during which she will hold discussions with the Israeli leadership and review the gamut of India-Israel relations that is on an upswing.
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Swaraj’s visit to Israel assumes significance in view of a possible visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to India later this year. Prime Minister Narendra Modi may also pay a return visit to Tel Aviv. President Pranab Mukherjee had visited Tel Aviv in last October, becoming the first Indian head of state to visit the country.
“India’s relations with Israel are part of its engagement with the broader West Asia region and are independent of its relations with any country in the region,” said Swarup. In Tel Aviv, Swaraj will have meetings with President Reuven Rivlin, PM Benjamin Netanyahu as well as Minister of Defence Moshe Ya’alon and Minister of National Infrastructure Yuval Steinitz.