Israel India diamond trade Modi visit to Israel
Israel India diamond trade Modi visit to IsraelReuters file

Israel is looking forward to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's maiden visit to the country. If it materialises, he will be the first sitting Indian prime minister to visit Israel, which is keen to woo many more Indians, albeit as tourists.

"We are expecting Prime Minister Modi to visit Israel," Israel's Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel told reporters after inaugurating the Israeli pavilion at the India Water Week exhibition in New Delhi Tuesday, reported IANS.

"We are preparing for this visit. It will bring the two countries closer," he added.

Israel has seen a slew of top-level visits by Indian dignitaries, including President Pranab Mukherjee last October and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in January this year.

The news comes amid report of Pakistan feeling unsettled after Modi's visit to Saudi Arabia.

"After years of considering Saudi Arabia as a major ally and economic benefactor, Pakistan may be on the verge of losing its erstwhile patron to arch-rival India. Modi arrived in Riyadh last week for an official visit full of diplomatic significance," said Aparna Pande, director of India Initiative of the Hudson Institute — an American think-tank, reported PTI.

The visit was "clearly a win for India," according to Pande. 

Bilateral trade

The two-way trade between Israel and India was $4.52 billion in 2014, up 3.8 percent from $4.35 billion in the preceding year, according to Indian foreign ministry. Diamonds account for almost 53 percent of the bilateral trade.

India's exports to Israel stood at $3.28 billion in 2014-15 and $2.18 billion in the first nine months of financial year 2015-16, according to Indian commerce & industry ministry data.

India imported goods worth $2.32 billion in 2014-15 and the inward shipments was estimated at $1.53 billion in April-December period last financial year.

India-Israel defence ties are on the upswing and have got a fillip after the Narendra Modi government came to power in May 2014.

Israel woos Indian tourists

The country is also looking forward to Indian tourists to boost its tourism earnings, which, at $11 billion annually, accounts for about 2.5 percent of its gross domestic product, reported Reuters Thursday. 

Israel will be wooing Indian tourists in the current year to boost arrivals from India to about 1 lakh in two years. In 2015, about 40,000 Indians visited the country, a growth of 13 percent.

The country is looking at China and India to drive tourism, as the country is yet to completely recover from the aftermath of the 2014 Gaza war, the agency quoted Israel's tourism ministry Director-General Amir Halevi as saying. 

Tourist arrivals fell 3 percent to 3.1 million in 2015 as an outcome of the six-week conflict in the previous year.