EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s state visit to India was predictably full of pomp and circumstance. More importantly, it underscored yet again the closeness that now characterizes the bilateral relationship.
The rapport that has built up between Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Indian PM Narendra Modi has transformed New Delhi’s approach to Jerusalem. Once, India shunned Israel so as not to disenchant the Muslim community back home or alienate the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world, which would have unsettled the Indian diaspora and imperiled crude imports. Strikingly, Netanyahu accompanied Modi through all three days of his state visit to Israel last July, and Modi returned that tribute to the Israeli leader on his visit to India six months later. They called each other by their first names and described one another as “my good friend.”
Only one Israeli PM ever visited India before Netanyahu: Ariel Sharon, in 2003. Modi’s visit to Israel followed Pranab Mukherjee’s, in October 2015 – the first ever by an Indian president – which too was reciprocated by Reuven Rivlin in November 2016. Rivlin was only the second Israeli president to visit India, after Ezer Weizmann in 1996.