New Delhi: Narendra Modi will be travelling to Israel, the first by an Indian Prime Minister to the Jewish country with which bilateral defence cooperation is on an upswing. No dates have been finalised for Modi's visit which will take place on mutually convenient dates, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said.
Swaraj said he will be travelling to Israel this year, besides Palestine and Jordan. India had established "full" diplomatic relationship with Israel in 1992 though it had recognised the country in 1950. No Indian Prime Minister or President has ever visited that country.
The then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had become the first premier from that country to visit India when he came here in 2003. He is credited with transforming bilateral relations from diminutive defence and trade cooperation to the strategic ties of today.
"As far as my visit is concerned, it will take place this year. I will visit, Israel, Palestine and Jordan. As far as Prime Minister's visit is concerned, he will travel to Israel. No dates have been finalised. It will take place as per mutually convenient dates," she said replying to a question at a press conference. At the same time, she asserted, "There was no change in India's policy towards Palestine."
LK Advani had visited Israel when he was Home Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Jaswant Singh and S M Krishna had visited the Jewish nation as External Affairs Ministers. Recently Home Minister Rajnath Singh had also visited Israel.
Describing Israel as a friendly country, Swaraj said India had never "let down" the Palestinian cause and it will continue to support it. Asked whether the Prime Minister will visit Iran, she said no such visit has been finalised so far but he will be visiting Turkey to attend G-20 Summit later this year. Swaraj said she will travel to Iran to attend the NAM Summit this year.
Talking about government's efforts to reach out to various countries, Swaraj said Prime Minister will visit five Central Asian countries including Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan when he travels to Russia to attend the BRICS Summit. "When he goes to Ufa in Russia for BRICS summit, he will visit five Central Asian countries," Swaraj said, adding "the foreign policy has been spread quite significantly. We achieved a lot."