Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s last-minute cancellation of a planned trip to India – the second such cancellation this year – will be understood in New Delhi as having to do with the September 17 election campaign, and will not cast a cloud over the strong relations between the two countries, Indian sources said on Tuesday.
The sources said that Netanyahu explained to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi the reason for the cancellation. The Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement saying that the two leaders spoke by phone, and agreed that “due to scheduling constraints,” the visit would take place after the election.
Netanyahu visited India in January 2018, some six months after Modi became the first Indian prime minister to visit Israel.
This is the second high-profile visit Netanyahu canceled at the last minute in the last two months, having postponed a visit to Japan in late July some 10 days before that planned trip. Netanyahu was widely believed to have organized those trips close to the September 17 election in an effort to cast him in the light of world statesman just prior to the polls.
Netanyahu had also planned to visit India earlier this year – in February, just two months before the previous election – but also canceled that visit just days before it was to take place.
Netanyahu was scheduled to arrive in New Delhi on Monday, spend the day in meetings there, and return either that night or the next morning.
Modi and Netanyahu have developed a close relationship, bringing the ties between the countries to new heights. The local Indian press had reported that a number of high profile defense deals were to be signed during the visit, but sources involved in planning the trip denied there was any concrete deal that was to be signed.
The sources also said no contact was made with Saudi Arabia to allow Netanyahu to fly over its airspace en route to India, something that would have made significant headlines. Air India has rights to fly over Saudi Arabia and Oman on the way to and from New Delhi, but Israeli aircraft have not yet been granted that same privilege.
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