Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi leaves New Delhi bound for Israel on Tuesday. Photo courtesy of India's Press Information Bureau

Warm relations between India and Israel may reach new levels when Tel Aviv rolls out the red carpet to Narendra Modi, the first Indian prime minister to visit, on Tuesday.

During Modi’s three-day tour, the two countries are expected to sign deals in defense, cyber security and technology. They will also discuss counter-terrorism, water resource management, agriculture and innovation.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who will accompany Modi throughout his tour, described the visit as “historic.”

India did not rush recognize Israel in the early decades of its establishment. Successive prime ministers from the Congress party, which ruled India for over 50 years, avoided visiting the country so as not to upset oil-rich Gulf nations and Iran, and to keep their party’s Muslim vote bank intact.

Modi’s decision not to visit Ramallah, the seat of Palestinian Authority, has upset Indian Muslim leader Asaduddin Owaisi, who said this will only embolden Israel in its “occupation” of Palestine. India’s stated policy remains to support a two-state solution in which Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist peacefully.

Modi’s visit comes as the two countries are marking 25 years of full diplomatic ties.

India, which faces cross-border terrorism from Pakistan and border disputes with China, will be mainly eyeing defense deals with Israel. The two countries currently have defense contracts worth about US$1 billion each year and Israel has emerged as the second largest arms supplier to India after the US.

The two allies will also discuss ways in which to strengthen cyber security and improve intelligence-sharing.

The two countries currently have defense contracts worth about US$1 billion each year and Israel has emerged as the second largest arms supplier to India after the US

Modi’s visit is likely to upset Pakistan after his earlier visit to the US prompted Washington to declare Syed Salahuddin, head of the Kashmiri militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, a global terrorist. The announcement came hours before Modi was to meet with US President Donald Trump at the White House.

Israel sees no difference between Hamas, the terror group its troops are fighting against, and Pakistan-sponsored militant organizations such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen. It openly supports India’s fight against terrorism.

Modi, who presents himself as being pro-farmer, will also seek the help of Israeli experts to boost India’s food security. The Israeli cabinet recently committed US$80 million for joint research and development mainly in water and agricultural technology programs.

Israel hopes to draw more tourists from India. To make its scenic spots more popular, it will encourage Bollywood producers to shoot their films in such locations. Over 44,000 Indian tourists visited Israel in 2016, a 13% increase over the previous year, according to a report.

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