Narendra Modi to become first Indian PM to visit Israel

Mr Modi says his government is committed to improve business environment in India Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Modi is likely to visit Israel later this year

Narendra Modi is to become the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel, India's foreign minister has said.

The dates of Mr Modi's visit are being "worked out", Sushma Swaraj said.

Reports say Mr Modi's landmark visit could happen this year after an Indian delegation's visit to Israel in July.

The two countries have shared 23 years of diplomatic relations and are working together on counter-terrorism, defence, agriculture and the water and energy sectors.

But no Indian prime minister or president has ever visited Israel.

Ms Swaraj told reporters on Sunday that she will be travelling to Israel, Palestinian territories and Jordan later this year.

"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.

The Israeli ambassador to India, Daniel Carmon, welcomed the announcement.

"High level visits between both countries... are a natural ingredient of tightening relationship between Israel and India," Mr Carmon was quoted as saying by The Hindu newspaper.

In 2000, Jaswant Singh of the then BJP-led ruling government became the first Indian foreign minister to visit Israel. Ariel Sharon was the first Israeli premier to visit India in 2003.

Correspondents say trade between the two countries has grown substantially - from $200m (£130m) in 1992 to about $4.39bn in 2013.

In 2013, India was Israel's 10th largest trade partner and its third largest trade partner in Asia after China and Hong Kong. Israel has also emerged as a major defence supplier to Delhi.

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