NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu are likely to hold a roadshow in Ahmedabad on January 17, similar to the one held during Japanese PM Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Gujarat city in last September.
The two leaders are expected to travel from the Ahmedabad airport to the Sabarmati Ashram in the city by road, people familiar with the plan said. In September, Abe and Modi had travelled the 8-km distance in an open jeep.
Netanyahu will be the third head of state to visit Gujarat’s largest city, after Chinese President Xi Jinping and Abe. Meanwhile, Netanyahu’s visit coincides with the first International Bene Israel Festival, which is being held on the Navgaon beach in Maharashtra’s Raigad district to promote people-to-people ties.
“A highlight of the programme is that the congregated global Bene Israel (lit. children of Israel) community — many of them Israeli from having settled there — will visit the spot where their forebears first arrived on the Indian subcontinent. The immediate agenda is to raise funds for the restoration of a 1980s memorial that marks the site where their predecessors were washed ashore after a shipwreck about 2000 years ago,” Sifra Lentin, a scholar on history, recently wrote in an article for Mumbai-based think tank Gateway House.
The Israeli Indian Jews are particularly excited about the modification of a rule — compulsory army service for all Israelis after high school — that kept their children from acquiring the Overseas Citizen of India status, he wrote.
“This has now been done away with. The prospect of Air India starting a direct flight from Mumbai and Delhi to Tel Aviv has also raised expectations.” Netanyahu will be the second Israeli premier to visit India after diplomatic ties were established between the two sides in 1992. His visit comes almost 15 years after the first visit by Ariel Sharon in 2003.