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Tapping Israeli Technologies

When it comes to Indo- Israeli co-operation, there is a near consensus across the Indian political spectrum today on promoting it further. Advancing the Indira Gandhi tradition of befriending Israel in the national interest, Congress Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao decided to establish full diplomatic ties between New Delhi and Jerusalem in 1992. Since then cooperation between the two capitals has considerably expanded in different fields including defence, intelligence and counter-terrorism, economy, science and technology and agriculture.

According to authentic studies, in 1996 India purchased its 32 “Searcher" Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Electronic Support Measure sensors and an Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation Simulator System. The Israel Aircraft Industries has serviced several large contracts, including the upgrading of the IAF's Russian-made MiG-21 ground attack aircraft. It has sold India laser-guided bombs. In 1997 New Delhi and Jerusalem negotiated the deal involving the purchase of Barak-1 vertically-launched surface-to-air (SAM) missiles. During the Bharatiya Janata Party led National Democratic Alliance government, New Delhi and Jerusalem formed joint ventures for the development of specific weapon systems and technologies. India started developing the Barak-8 missile for the Indian Navy and Air Force in order to protect sea vessels and ground facilities from aircraft and cruise missiles.

Israel today is India's second largest arms supplier after Russia. Initially, it was just a buyer-supplier relationship between the two democracies and India would buy some of the Israeli advanced weapons systems and technologies. Later it developed into the formation of joint Indo-Israeli military ventures for the development of specific weapons systems and technologies.

In 2008 Indo-Israeli trade stood at over $4 billion. It has now increased to about six billion dollars ranking India as Israel’s second largest Asian trading partner after China.  The diamond industry is Israel’s main trade area with India. The two nations are negotiating a free trade agreement. This is expected to triple the volume of the bilateral trade.

Cooperation between the two nations has involved joint research and development projects in telecommunications and software. In August 2012, India and Israel signed a $ 550 million academic research programme. In January 2008 India launched Israel’s most advanced 300kilogram satellite into orbit.  In April 2013 the Tata Industries signed an agreement to make a $5 million anchor investment in the Tel Aviv University's tech transfer company Ramot in engineering and exact sciences, environment and clear technology, pharmaceuticals and health care. The Tata is collaborating with Israeli companies also on nutrition security, use of water, crop enhancements, and food transportation. Indo-Israeli investment company Agiletree focuses on innovative ideas in software, internet and web development. Israeli IDE Technologies is operating India’s largest seawater desalination plant and Focal Energy is bringing different types of renewable energy to India.

Israel’s contribution to promote India’s agriculture, water and medical technologies has been enormous.  Recently, it invited a 10-member delegation of dairy farmers from Punjab to participate in a training programme designed by the Center for International Agricultural Development Cooperation, Israel’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. This delegation included veterinarians, researchers and staff from the Punjab Dairy Development Board. The delegation has returned home equipped with many modern dairy farming techniques.

Israel is to set up over 28 centre of excellence across the nation in near future. Of them, three centres are to be set up to boost agriculture in Karnataka this year. The centres, proposed to be set up in Kolar, Bagalkot and Belgaum, will focus on cultivation of pomegranate, mango and vegetables.Israel already has established a centre for excellence in agriculture in Haryana.  It is currently involved in cleaning the Yamuna. In June 2012 a delegation of 16 high-ranking Indian officials from the water authorities of Rajasthan, Karnataka, Goa and Haryana visited Israel’s waste-water treatment plants to meet some of the leading environmentalists and agronomists there and learn the desert country's newest green technologies.

New Delhi must take advantage of what Jerusalem has to offer in the agricultural sector. This sector is crucial to the existence and happiness of the largest section of its population. Knowledgeable sources say India produces 220 million tons of food a year. India is the second largest producer of potatoes in the world after China. It produced 45 million metric tons of potato in 2012, approximately 12.2 percent of the total global potato production. Yet much of India’s vast growing population still remains undernourished. Farmers have to sell their goods at very economical rates during the harvest season of their products for want of appropriate technologies to preserve them. Also, they cannot make profits to invest in advanced technologies. They're stuck with grade B seeds. They have no greenhouses and are completely dependent on the weather.  New Delhi could tap the opportunities available in Israel to take care of this predicament.

The innovative Israeli agritech includes advanced precision farming techniques, drip irrigation, next-generation robotic milking systems, desalination plants, environment-friendly agrochemicals (for crop protection) andagribiotechnology. Israel rears cows producing the highest volume of milk per animal in the world. Indian investors and agri-tech professionals could use these technologies. Their uses can dramatically increase India’s food yields in a sustainable, cost effective way.  Israeli company Netafirm has increased India’s cotton crop - vital to its textile industry - by 85 percent and that with 40 percent less water.  India could repeat this experience in the production of other goods as well.

The sources say there are 776 family-owned farms and 163 cooperative-based farms in Israel. MASHAV (Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation) introduces Israel’s expertise in economic, social and environmental sustainable development to developing countries. Mashav has trained 270,000 participants from 132 countries in various agricultural programmes in Israel and abroad. All forward-looking nations are making use of such opportunities in Israel. India must not lag behind.


The author is a senior Indian journalist based in New Delhi. Views expressed are personal.

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Jagdish N Singh
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