NEW DELHI: In what is probably among the last high-level visits by foreign dignitaries before the Lok Sabha elections later this year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud are likely to visit India in February.
While the Indian ministry of external affairs and the Israeli and Saudi embassies in New Delhi remained non-committal, agency reports said Netanyahu’s visit had been fixed for February 11, while Prince Salman’s maiden trip to India is said to be part of a tour of Asia which will include China, Pakistan and South Korea.
Israeli daily Haaretz, noting that the country’s National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, NSA Ajit Doval and other senior security chiefs during a visit to India earlier this month, said a “major arms deal” was likely to be on the agenda.
But Talmiz Ahmad, who served as India’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE, believes the visit has more to do with domestic compulsions. “Netanyahu is under domestic pressure and this trip is probably an attempt to convince people back home that he is still an important leader,” he said.
Former Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh, however, felt that “a lot of pending bilateral issues need to be settled. So I presume that Netanyahu would be anxious to get these concluded and claim them to his credit before the elections.”
“Saudi Arabia is a friend of India, and if Prince Salman does visit India he will be given a red carpet welcome,” a senior source said.