“From boosting economic ties to furthering people-to-people interactions, my Israel visit has a wide range of programs,” added Modi.
Arun K. Singh, India’s former ambassador to Israel, believes the milestone trip “will enhance awareness” within both countries of the “increased significance of the relationship.”
“There has been a focus on defense and counter-terrorism and it is important. This kind of cooperation enhances the confidence that countries have with each other,” Singh told CNN.
“One of the reasons that Israel and the West are really important for India is that China can outspend India any day and every day,” said Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, a senior fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.
“The West and Israel focus on the quality of technology and that becomes a massive force equalizer… Israel, Europe and America do not sell to China, and that’s really the biggest aspect of that India and Israel relationship.”
Not just about defense
Economic relations between India and Israel have flourished since the establishment of formal diplomatic ties in 1992.
Bilateral trade at the time was worth $200 million and mainly consisted of diamonds. By 2016, that figure had skyrocketed to $4.16 billion, excluding defense expenditure.
Under a program titled “Make in India,” Modi has been looking for foreign companies to set up production in India. Modi’s trip, which includes scheduled meetings with Israeli CEOs, is likely to be viewed as an opportunity to encourage Israeli businesses — ranging from diamond merchants to tech firms — to sell their wares in India.
“Defense has been a primary driver, but I think this visit will be about broadening the relationship,” said Dhruva Jaishankar, a foreign-policy fellow at Brookings India.
“Both sides are trying to create an enabling environment for a broader relationship. When India looks West, there aren’t too many stable democracies anymore. Same with Israel, so when it looks East, it sees some stability in India. That creates a natural convergence of interest.”
Modi and Netanyahu are expected to announce agreements and address the media on Wednesday.
Palestinian visit not in the cards
In May, Modi hosted Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, for a state dinner and affirmed “India’s commitment to the Palestinian cause.” He later added that he “earnestly hopes for early resumption of talks between Palestine and Israel leading to the establishment of an independent and sovereign State of Palestine.”
However, Modi’s schedule does not include a visit to Ramallah, the city where the Palestinian Authority is based.
According to Jaishankar, this has little to do with making a political statement.
“India has always had a very good relationship with Palestinian authorities. When India’s President Pranab Mukherjee went to Israel in 2015, he visited Ramallah. India is not going to abandon the Palestinian cause, but Israel is certainly more important.”