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NEW DELHI: Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu will begin a six-day visit to India on Sunday and the event, announced by the Israeli embassy here on Friday, will be closely watched by Pakistan in the neighbourhood and by Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East where India has gained in profile in recent months.

India needs Iran to counter Pakistan in Afghanistan through the Chahbahar port route, but it has a difficult balancing act to perform given Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personalised ties with Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Conflicting reports about India’s uncertain proposal to purchase Spike anti-tank missiles from Israel would be followed with interest in Islamabad.

According to an Israeli embassy statement, Mr Netanyahu will arrive in New Delhi on Jan 14 and depart from Mumbai on Jan 19. The visit will include New Delhi, Gujarat and Mumbai, it said. The visit would help clarify India’s stand at the UN against the US rush to establish its embassy in Jerusalem.

During his visit, Mr Netanyahu will hold meetings with Mr Modi and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj. In addition, he will give an inaugural speech at the Raisina Dialogue and meet with the Indo-Israeli CEO forum in Delhi.

In Gujarat, the two Prime Ministers will visit the Centre of Excellence in Vadrad and inaugurate a Centre of Excellence for date palms in Bhuj via videoconference. They will also visit the iCreate innovation campus and centre. In Mumbai, Mr Netanyahu will meet Jewish community leaders and Indian businessmen and “will reach out to Bollywood in an exclusive ‘Shalom Bollywood’ event”, the embassy said.

Indian Jews have played an important role in the early Indian cinema but a most memorable role of a Jewish lover was played in the 1950s by Dilip Kumar, a Muslim.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2018