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‘Unfortunately, India And Israel Still Don’t Know Each Other Enough’

The relation between India and Israel rests on three strong pillars— economics, defence and agriculture. Indian PM Narendra Modi became the first PM in 70 years to visit Israel. A lot has been said and written about the future prospects of ties in every sector between the two countries

In an exclusive interview to Taniya Tikoo, Daniel Carmon, Israel’s Ambassador to India, speaks about the bilateral relationship of the two countries in the areas of defence, cyber security, and agriculture.

Edited excerpts:

Indo-Israel trade has dropped to $4 billion this year from about $5 billion in 2012. The figures are low compared to your trade ties with the West. What do you think is the reason behind it?

I wouldn’t look at it that way, I think what India and Israel are doing now is looking at possibilities of bigger exchange of trade. One year does not signify a trend.  

After the recent visit by the Indian PM, can we expect some big partnership in the fields of defence, or cyber security?

There is a process going on for many years in which many Israeli, Indian companies are looking and exploring the possibilities to do more business together and there is quite a lot of business being done. Even to the extent of Indian companies acquiring Israeli companies.

In one way or another, our relationship comes from the fact that we complement each other. Despite the fact that we are so different in size, geographical locations. We have complimentary areas where we can match our needs and abilities. Agriculture and water is definitely one of them. We are working on paths that will meet. One of them is governmental cooperation in the fields you mentioned. Next stage will be to bring the Israeli private sector in. Companies which are interested to repeat our success stories.

The visit of PM Modi to Israel has set a new scope and both countries have elevated their relationship into a strategic partnership in general which is historical. What we are doing in agriculture is upgrading the wonderful work that both India and Israel have done in various states through our centres of excellence.  

We are sharing a lot of Israeli technology with India, so there is a lot we are doing and a lot to be done.

Agriculture is the core area of bilateral cooperation between two countries, yet the Israeli ‘Centre for Excellence’ for Indian farmers is not a viable business yet. Why so?

The ‘Centre of Excellence’ by definition is not a business like project. It is what we call a developmental corporation meaning both countries will come together, build on their strengths and blend them together and build a wonderful centre for excellence.

We are talking about 15 centres of excellence throughout India until the end of 2017, which is our 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations.  

Why is the Israeli private sector struggling to find its feet in India? Israeli small scale and medium scale industries are keen to design products mainly for the western markets, why no extra efforts for the price sensitive Indian markets?

The West is Israel’s traditional partner. Much of Israel’s economy including the services was directed towards the West. But in the last few years politically, economically and in many other aspects Israel has started looking East. And this is why we see more interest and more activity.

So, I would say that the Indian market is different and we are now adjusting ourselves for doing business in India as India is on our priority. Sit back, relax and enjoy the growing relationship.

Bilateral trade hasn’t diversified much till today, chemicals and diamonds still make up for a large amount. What are the roadblocks in further diversifying the trade?

The trade figures usually show the exchange in products and not in services. Much of the relationship between India-Israel has to do with services and there is a lot that is going on. Of course, much more will be done in the future. So there is some misconception about the scope of those relations.

Do you think the cultural differences between the two countries is a roadblock for further strengthening the ties? Do you think the two countries know each other well or as much as required?

Unfortunately, India and Israel don’t know each other enough. But if you look at the last two years, the visits have encouraged a trend of bringing more people for business, tourism and studies.

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