Prime Minister Narendra Modi will travel to Israel, making him the first Indian Premier to visit the country, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said here on Sunday.
Addressing a press conference to recount the achievements of the External Affairs Ministry in the past year, Ms. Swaraj said the PM’s “dates were not confirmed”, but that they were being “worked out.”
Sources told The Hindu the visit could happen this year itself, with a high-level Indian team travelling to Tel Aviv in July for discussions on several bilateral issues.
Ms. Swaraj also said she would visit Israel, Palestine and Jordan later this year, and will travel to Tehran in June for the Non-Aligned Ministerial meet.
However, officials said there is no decision yet on whether Mr. Modi will attend the NAM summit in Caracas, Venezuela in September this year.
Ms. Swaraj insisted did not indicate any shift in the Indian position. But it will in fact be a break with the past.
No Indian Prime Minister has visited Israel, despite India setting up full relations with the country more than two decades ago.
It was during the previous NDA tenure in 2000 that Mr. Jaswant Singh became the first Indian foreign minister to visit Israel, and PM Ariel Sharon the first Israeli PM to visit India (2003).
Mr. Modi had also made a marked break from precedent when he met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to New York for the United Nations General Assembly in 2014. At the time, despite the fact that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was in New York on the same dates, the government had not sought any meeting between him and Mr. Modi.
Israel welcomes visit plan
Meanwhile Israel ambassador Daniel Carmon has welcomed the announcement that Mr. Modi was planning a visit. “High level visits between both countries, as we have witnessed in the past months, are a natural ingredient of the tightening relationship between Israel and India. In this context, Israel will of course welcome any visits by PM Narendra Modi and FM Sushma Swaraj.”