|#1737||1256||May 02, 2017||By Jatin Kumar|
In 2017, India and Israel celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. The relations between the countries were not always as open as it is today. Though India accorded formal recognition to Israel in September 1950, Indo-Israeli relations started blooming only from January 1992 onwards, when formal diplomatic relations were established. Since then, Israel has been a steadfast ally for India’s national security requirements. Even when there was no diplomatic relations, Indian leaders did seek Israeli skills in various domains. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sought help from Israeli agricultural experts barely a few months after voting against the United Nations partition plan of Palestine . Once the relations were normalised, defence and agriculture became the main pillars of bilateral engagement between the two countries. However, cooperation in the defence sector has overshadowed the ties in the non-military realm .
The saga of India- Israel relations started during the visit of Ezer Weizman’s to India in 1997, when both the countries engaged in four bilateral agreements related to agriculture, trade and commerce, along with various defence agreements. In 1998, India and Israel joined hands to boost trade in agriculture through Agro-Advantage Maharashtra Exhibition held in Mumbai. Besides, a series of MoUs have been signed in the field of agriculture between the two countries. Nevertheless, the cooperation in the non-military areas was limited and low profile.
In 2006, the Indo-Israeli agricultural ties took shape when both countries signed the Agreement on Agricultural Cooperation, which further evolved into Indo-Israel Agriculture Project (IIAP). This is a joint effort of MIDH (Mission for Integrated Development of horticulture), a division of the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare and MASHAV (Agency for International Development Cooperation), an unit of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs . These cooperative measures gathered pace in 2008 during the first stage of cooperation, following the signing of a three-year action plan based on a government to government agreement. It was later extended for the 2012-2015 period.
The objective of IIAP is to set up Centres of Excellence that will provide a platform for a rapid transfer of technology to the farmers. It endeavours to increase productivity and improve the quality of produce. In Haryana and Rajasthan, Israeli technologies in horticulture mechanisation, protected cultivation, orchard and canopy management, nursery management, micro-irrigation and post-harvest management has radically altered the agricultural landscape . According to Dr. Satyender Yadav, the Head of Vegetable cluster and Centre of Excellence of Karnal, “With the Israeli technology we managed to increase the harvest period of various vegetables from 3 months to 9 months. We also managed to introduce in Haryana new varieties such as cherry tomato and coloured capsicum. This has contributed to the income of the local farmers of Haryana”. According to MASHAV, annually over 20,000 farmers visit to Gharaunda, Centre of Excellence, Karnal. During its first three operational years (2011-2013), these technologies provided extra ordinary results which can be seen in this table:
Table- 1.1: Changes in Agricultural Productivity
(Source: MASHAV, the Government of Israel)
Furthermore, there was a fascinating drop of 65% of water use. In addition, a significant decline in the use of pesticides and fertilizers was also registered:
Table 1.2- Changes in the use of pesticides and fertilizers
(Source: MASHAV, the Government of Israel)
In September 2015, the third phase of IIAP 2015-2018 began, which further expanded the bilateral agricultural cooperation between the two countries. Under this action plan, 21 contributing states are wrapped for collaboration in the area of energy-efficient greenhouses, recycling of waste water for irrigation, Post-Harvest Management for horticulture crops, training, visiting facilities in respective countries and private sector collaboration .
Israel has also offered India post-harvest management expertise in fruit and vegetable, which is very important in the maintaining the quality of fresh produce for delivering it to the distant consumers. According to Susan Lurie, Israel has a lot to offer India when it comes to maintenance of quality of fresh fruits and vegetable, especially with regards to its export to foreign markets .
Development and management of water resources is another emerging area of cooperation between the two nations. In November 2016, both India and Israel signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation in the field of water management and development with desalination . During President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Israel in October 2016, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested sharing Israeli expertise in the areas of water management, recycling, desalination and irrigation. To further spur these efforts, Israeli Agriculture Minister, Uri Ariel, participated in the India Water Week with a delegation of experts in water technologies. He was the chief guest at the event with the event with Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti. The Israeli Pavilion was the largest pavilion at the Water week, covering an area over 300 meters and showing 20 different technologies. After the event Minister Ariel also travelled to Haryana to inaugurate another centre of excellence for sub-tropical fruit in Ladwa .
During the Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s state visit to India in November 2016, a range of issues were discussed to intensify bilateral cooperation in non-military areas including agriculture, water, science & technology and education. Since the Indian government launched the campaign to “Make In India”, Israel has recurrently expressed keen interest in taking a proactive part in it. In this regard a clutch of MoU’s has been signed that have reaffirmed this partnership. This commitment comes closely on the heels of President Rivlin’s address to Indian farmers and businessmen at the Confederation of Indian Industries Premier Biennial Agro Technology and Business Fair (2016), where he said, “In Israel we have always been concerned about homeland security…What India taught us is that the greater challenge in today’s world is food security and that’s why we are here today”.
The possibilities of co-operation between the two countries are plenty especially in the field of water technologies. The advances that Israel has made when it comes to making the land green is a core avenue in which India with its vast resources can make use of to prosper significantly. At present, there are eight plants which use Israeli technology of water desalination in India. These numbers can be increased to solve the water issues in India. Currently, Israeli Ayala Water and Ecology Ltd. is helping the Delhi government to clean Yamuna River by stretching the eight Kilometres long sewage, which drains into the river. Ayala is also present in other Indian cities as well, such as Hyderabad and Chennai, providing Israeli expertise to address water and ecological challenges.
Israel can also play a crucial role in the flagship programmes of the current government, such as, Make in India, Digital India, Start-up India, Clean Ganga, and Smart City as well as the recently initiated National Agriculture Market initiative. The political leadership in Israel has already conveyed their desire to assist with the chief initiatives of the Government of India. There are many Israeli companies that have come forward to explore prospects of partnership with their Indian counterparts. If channelized in the right direction, Israeli efficiency in water resource management and cultivation of arid land can be helpful in ensuring India’s food security and water security needs.
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