Netanyahu to visit India before Israeli elections

Netanyahu to visit India before Israeli elections

NEW DELHI: Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is planning to travel to India in September just days before he faces elections, The Hindu said on Tuesday.

Mr Netanyahu was due to visit Delhi in February this year, also just ahead of the earlier Israeli election, which failed to give his coalition a clear majority. He will now make a “short visit” to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi possibly on Sept 9, which Israeli media described as a photo-op to boost his electoral profile.

Israel-India defence ties were in action during the February standoff with Pakistan following the Pulwama massacre.

Mr Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Israel in 2017, a visit Mr Netanyahu returned in January 2018, which marked 25 years since the establishment of full diplomatic relations.

Despite winning in April, Mr Netanyahu was unable to build a coalition in the 120-member Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and was forced to declare fresh elections, which will now be held on Sept 17.

According to The Hindu, in the run-up to the Delhi visit, bilateral talks on defence issues have focused on the emergency procurement of ‘Spike’ anti-tank missiles and the purchase of more precision-guided munitions that were used during the Balakot strikes by the Indian Air Force.

The two sides are also discussing a long-pending proposal to buy 2 Phalcon AWACS (warning systems) for more than a billion dollars that is believed to be awaiting clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

Mr Netanyahu’s visit will also come amidst rising US-Iran tensions, and he is expected to make a case for India to align itself less with Tehran to join Israel and the US in putting pressure on the regime there, The Hindu said.

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