Indian President to Make First Visit to Israel

History is to be made in a key Israeli alliance next week, as Pranab Mukherjee becomes first Indian president to visit the Jewish state.

Ari Yashar ,

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee

Israel and India have long been key allies in a connection that has been growing particularly in terms of military cooperation, but that alliance is set to take an important leap forward next week with the first ever official visit to Israel by an Indian president.

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee is to make an official visit to the Jewish state lasting from next Tuesday until Thursday, after President Reuven Rivlin extended an invitation for Mukherjee to visit.

The President's Office announced the planned visit in a press statement on Tuesday, calling it "an historic political milestone," and noting that it "reflects the continued strengthening of relations between the two countries."

Mukherjee is first to hold a work meeting with Rivlin at the President's Residence in Jerusalem, and later Rivlin will host a state dinner for the visiting dignitary.

"The upcoming visit of the President of India, more than being an important milestone in the relationship of the two countries, will serve to deepen the friendship between our states, in the fields of economy, science, medicine, and agriculture," said Rivlin.

"I am looking forward to the meeting, which will represent one of the highlights of the relationship between the Israeli and Indian peoples."

The Indian president is to partake in a lunch with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and meet both Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (Likud) and Opposition chairman MK Yitzhak Herzog (Zionist Camp). Mukherjee is also to give a speech at a special Knesset session as well.

At the end of the historic visit, Mukherjee will visit Hebrew University in Jerusalem and receive an honorary doctorate degree, signifying the ever growing academic cooperation between Israel and India.

"Israel views with high importance the developing relations with India, and is delighted by the occasion of the first visit of an Indian president to Israel," concluded the press release from Rivlin's office.

Military ties between the two allies have been growing rapidly of late, with India accelerating plans to buy Israeli drones that can be armed. The two have also long worked together to develop anti-missile systems, and are close to signing a deal to develop a joint surface-to-air missile system.

As defense ties with America continue to grow tense, as highlighted in Operation Protective Edge last summer when US President Barack Obama froze the routine transfer of Hellfire missiles to Israel and ordered scrutiny on future shipments, Israel continues to show signs of developing Asian allies such as India, China and Japan.