Reuven Rivlin, the President of Israel, is presently on a six-day visit to India. He had a meeting with Narendra Modi on November 15, 2016 as part of the visit. He is the first head of the state from Israel to visit India in 19 years – a fact that shows how the relationship between both the countries is growing.
Ezer Weizman was the last President from Israel to have visited India in January of 1997. Rivlin has also brought a huge business delegation with him and is expected to visit Agra, Chandigarh, Karnal, and Mumbai.
Why is the visit important?
The visit is preceded by the trip undertaken by Pranab Mukherjee in 2015. It was the government headed by PV Narasimha Rao in 1992 that started diplomatic relations with Israel and this visit can be said to be a continuation of the same. It is also expected that this particular visit will be succeeded by a reciprocal visit by Modi, possibly in 2017. The last time a dignitary from Israel visited India was in 2003 when Ariel Sharon – the-then Prime Minister – came calling. Similarly, no Indian Prime Minister has ever visited Israel. In fact, before he left for India, Rivlin – in a tweet – expressed his pride at the possibility of seeing how lives in India were being influenced positively by Israeli innovation.
Is there a political angle to it?
In the recent past Israel has become an important partner of India in areas such as security, agriculture, and defence to name a few. India has had ties with Palestine as well and that has meant that the national government has always kept things with Israel under the wraps. However, ever since our present President became the first head of state of India to visit Israel, things have come out in the open.
Where are India and Israel cooperating?
Apart from security and defence, both the countries will also be associating in several areas, with agriculture being one area that occupies a pretty important position.
Mikhael Mirilashvili, Chairman of Water Gen, is one of the members of the business delegation accompanying Rivlin. The company is specialises in water resources and is one of the top futuristic companies of Israel. At Karnal, Rivlin shall pay a visit to the Centre of Excellence of Indo-Israeli Agricultural Project. All across India there are already 15 such centres of excellence in the domain of agriculture.
Over the years, India has also benefited hugely from the technology and expertise of Israel in areas such as mechanization of horticulture. Following are some other areas where such positive influence has permeated:
- protected cultivation
- orchard and canopy management
- post-harvest management
- nursery management
This influence is especially visible in states such as Maharashtra and Haryana, which are known to suffer owing to paucity of water. At present, such technology is being used all around India.
History of Indo-Israeli bilateral ties
India’s relations with Israel started when the earlier recognized the latter formally on September 17, 1950. Soon, it was followed by the establishment of an immigration office by the Jewish Agency in Mumbai. This went on to become a trade office, and then a consulate. Israel opened its embassies during 1992 with the establishment of complete diplomatic ties. Ever since, agriculture and defence have been the mainstays of the bilateral relation. In recent years, both the countries have expanded their cooperation to areas like science and technology, homeland security, and education. In the days to come, both India and Israel want this to grow into a commendable high-technology partnership, which is going to be in keeping with their status as knowledge economies. As of now, both the countries are on friendly terms.
Trade and economic relations
Bilateral trade amounted to $200 million in 1992 and was made up mostly of diamonds. In 2011, this figure reached $5.19 billion. Ever since, it has hovered around the $4.5-5 billion mark. Diamonds make up almost half of the bilateral trade but there is now added diversity with the inclusion of pharmaceuticals, IT and telecom, agriculture, and homeland security. India mostly exports the following to Israel:
- precious stones and metals
- plants and vegetable products
- chemical products
- mineral products
- textiles and textile articles
Following are the major products imported by India from Israel:
- precious stones and metals
- mineral products
- transport equipment
- base metals
Among the chemicals imported by India from Israel, potash constitutes the major share. In the last few years, Israel has decided to improve its economic relations with countries such as India, Japan, and China. During November 2013, Israel had invested around $73.7 billion in India. Apart from this, there is a significant amount of indirect investment that is routed through the US, Europe, and Singapore.
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