Stepping up ties with the energy-rich Middle East, home to a six million-strong Indian diaspora, Union External Affairs Minister SM Krishna will begin a whirlwind four-day visit of Jordan, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Palestine today.

Krishna will hold talks with his Jordanian counterpart to focus on expanding economic ties between the two countries. The Middle East peace process will figure prominently in discussions in Amman and other capitals in the region that Krishna will visit, government sources said.

The highlight of the visit will, however, be Krishna's talks with the senior Israeli leadership in Tel Aviv on Monday. This will be the first visit by an Indian External Affairs Minister to Israel in 11 years and coincides with the 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between New Delhi and Tel Aviv.

The two countries are expected to sign an extradition treaty and an agreement on transfer of sentenced people that will boost security cooperation. Talks will also focus on Israel, a leader in dry land farming technologies, extending cooperation in agriculture, defence and counter-terror efforts. The country has emerged as India's second largest defence supplier after Russia.

Krishna will also meet Prime Minister of the Palestine National Authority Salam Fayaad, and is expected to announce fresh aid for the development of the Palestinian territory. He is expected to reiterate India's commitment to an independent Palestinian state living in peace with Israel.

Israel ties can bring India and Pakistan closer: Pervez Musharraf
Former Pakistan president General Pervez Musharraf advocated the establishing of relations with Israel, saying it could help bring India and Pakistan closer, Geo News reported. "Israel is a reality and we have to accept it," said Musharraf in an interview to an Israeli newspaper Haaretz, adding that Pakistan was an ideological state like Israel and having a cordial relation with it could help Pakistan.