Scheduling issues likely to stall Benjamin Netanyahu’s India trip

Scheduling issues likely to stall Benjamin Netanyahu’s India trip

Israeli PM was expected to make a short visit on February 11

The election season in Israel and India may derail Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after an initial date for his visit on February 11 fell through, officials involved in planning the visit confirmed.

According to a senior diplomatic source, Mr. Netanyahu, who had proposed the visit as part of a big international outreach before the Israeli elections, had originally suggested he could visit New Delhi on February 11.

The Ministry of External Affairs had acknowledged last week that Mr. Netanyahu was expected for a “short working visit”.

“The dates and other details of the visit are still being worked out and once it is finalised, we will share it with you,” spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said on January 31.

However, the date had to be postponed due to the Israeli PM’s other travel plans.

Mr. Netanyahu is expected to attend a major global conference in Warsaw on February 13-14 hosted by the United States, aimed at discussing the future course on Iran.

According to local reports, he will then travel to Germany for the Munich Security Conference, and then to Moscow for a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 21.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also has a packed schedule and will receive the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince on February 19-20. Argentinean President Mauricio Macri is also slotted for a visit, officials confirmed. Mr. Modi will head to South Korea on February 21 to receive the Seoul Peace Prize awarded by an NGO, and to meet with President Moon Jae-in.

MEA officials are still in negotiations with Israel about the possibility of Mr. Netanyahu’s visit being scheduled in the last week of February or early March but with elections in Israel set for April 9, and Indian election dates due to be announced in March, the window for a convenient date may be very small.

“It is looking difficult,” a diplomatic source told The Hindu, adding “But the will to meet is strong on both sides.” On the agenda for the visit is a discussion on a security agreement, among other deals.

If cancelled, Mr. Netanyahu’s visit will be the second high-profile engagement put off due to scheduling difficulties in recent weeks. A meeting of about 20 Foreign Ministers of the 22-nation Arab League for the Arab-India cooperation forum scheduled for January 31 was cancelled just a week before it was due to be held.

Although the date had not been publicly announced, an envoy from one of the countries participating confirmed that they had been informed “only at the last minute” that the meet on January 31-February 1 had to be put off due to the presentation of the annual budget by the government in Parliament.

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