By Rutvi Saxena
India and Israel cemented their friendship on Monday, 15 January 2018, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s first official trip to India. Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart signed nine key agreements to “strengthen the existing pillars of cooperation in areas that touch the lives of our people.” Netanyahu’s six day trip is expected to include visits to Ahmedabad and Mumbai as well, and is a celebration of 25 years of favourable bilateral relations.“The two Prime Ministers share a common vision for the relationship. They believe that in the next twenty-five years the two respective countries should strive to raise bilateral cooperation in diverse sectors to a qualitatively new level in consonance with our strategic partnership,” noted the Joint Statement issued after talks.
A common goal in human resource development
The India-Israel agreements focused on the Oil and Gas industry and cyber security cooperation. It aims to promote cooperation in Human Resource Development (HRD) and cyber security resilience, as well as joint economic ventures in the energy sector. Furthermore, Memorandums of Understandings (MoUs) were signed between the higher educational institutions of the two countries to facilitate exchange of knowledge. These include an MoU between the Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology and Technion-the Israel Institute of Technology, and one between Ministry of Ayush and the Centre for Integrative Complementary medicine, Israel.
“I have been saying that Indian Industries, start-ups and academic institutions must collaborate with their Israeli counterparts to access the huge reservoir of knowledge. Several Israeli companies have joined hands with Indian companies for making in India,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Inviting FDI and a potential FTA
Investments in business and trade were also encouraged, with PM Modi calling on Israel to take advantage of India’s liberalised Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) regime to make more in India. The bilateral trade between the countries increased to $5 billion in 2016-17 from $4.91 billion in the previous fiscal year, and it is hoped that these talks will lead to the establishment of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries. The Secretary in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP), Ramesh Abhishek assured Israeli companies that there be will ease of doing business here. “I assure you to resolve all problems and make things easier and better for Israeli companies to do business in India,” he said. Updates to the existing aviation agreement were also made, in addition to research and development and technology partnerships.
An agreement on film co- production was also signed, envisaging a framework for all audio-visual media output. With reference to this, Mr Netanyahu said, “My wife and I are very happy that we are going to Bollywood.”
Talks and agreements moving forward
The “marriage made in heaven” does not seem to be on rocky ground, despite India’s vote against the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) recently. Although the Israeli PM said he was “disappointed” by India’s vote, he added that “This visit is a testimony that our relationship is moving on so many fronts forward.” Calling this meeting a new era in the bonhomie shared by India and Israel, he said three things linked the countries together: An ancient past, a vibrant present, and the seizing of a positive future.
Prime Minister Modi seemed to echo the sentiment by saying, “I have always had a deep regard for Israel and its people. I visited Israel in 2006 as CM of Gujarat. Last year in July, I visited Israel, the first such visit from India. I experienced the remarkable spirit of innovation, enterprise and perseverance that drives Israel.”
According to a joint statement issued at the end of talks, “The two PMs noted with satisfaction the commencement and implementation of India-Israel development cooperation — three-year work programme in Agriculture (2018-2020) under the stewardship of the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs (MASHAV) and the ministry of agriculture of India aimed at increasing farmers’ productivity and optimisation of water use efficiency.”
The recent talks between the two countries have further strengthened their friendship, and it appears that relations will continue to be positive in light of the pacts signed and remarks made by both Prime Ministers.
Featured image source: Wikimedia
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