For the first time since India established diplomatic relations with Israel in 1992, an Indian prime minister traveled to Israel. Narendra Modi's historic three-day visit began today in Tel Aviv, where Benjamin Netanyahu personally welcomed him at Ben Gurion airport — a rare airport greeting from the Israeli prime minister.
The airport pickup signifies the considerable elevation at which Indian-Israeli relations have been lifted to. The Asian giant has traditionally walked a tightrope between Israel and Muslim-majority nations like Saudi Arabia and Iran, which have supplied it oil. India has also long lent support to the Palestinian cause, particularly under the leadership of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.
But since Modi was elected in 2014, India has grown increasingly close to Israel. The Indian government remained silent during the 2014 Gaza crisis. And now, unlike many foreign officials visiting Israel, Modi will not go on to meet Palestinian leaders in Ramallah.
Will Modi's visit jeopardize India's long-standing ties with Iran?
India's warmer ties with Israel have bolstered fears that India's large Muslim population is being sidelined in a country governed by Modi's Hindu nationalist party. Although Modi's visit is focused on trade and defense — India is Israel's largest arms buyer — Modi underscored bilateral cooperation on countering terrorism, the subtext, of course, being Islamist terror.
Will Modi's visit jeopardize India's long-standing ties with Iran? Much like India's relations in the Middle East, Iran has maintained a balancing act with India and Pakistan, India's rival. If Iran decides to exact revenge for Modi's Israel overtures by extending support to Pakistan, stability in South Asia could be called into question.