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Unfortunately India And Israel Still Don't Know Each Other Enough: Daniel Carmon, Israel's Ambassador To India

With a number of MOUs now being signed between the two countries, here is what Daniel Carmon, Israel's Ambassador to India has to say about the future prospects of the two countries

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma

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The relations between India and Israel rests on three strong pillars- Economics, Defense and Agriculture. Indian PM Narendra Modi in his historic visit, became the first PM in 70 years to visit Isreal. A lot has been said and written about the future prospects of ties in every sector between the two countries. The Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu called Modi's visit a historic trip and a history in making. With a number of MOUs now being signed between the two countries, here is what Daniel Carmon, Israel's Ambassador to India has to say about the future prospects of the two countries.

Indo-Israel trade has come to a stagnation point Indo-Israel trade which was about 5 billion USD in 2012 has dropped to $4 billion this year. The numbers are really small in any case compared to your trade ties with the West. What do you think is the reason?
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. When we look back in three four years at the trade relationship and influence of our ever growing powers in so many sectors. The numbers will show to be bigger and better and more diverse than now.

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. Course much more will be done in the future, anything that has to do with It, cyber and relationship in the areas of technology, that are not tangible as products, won't figure in trade numbers. So there is some misconception about the scope of those relations.

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

There is no doubt in my mind that there will be not only a change because 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 even 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 are definitely one of them. I would not like to name any company for the sake of those we aren't naming. 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. But also specifically in the areas of water and irrigation. What we are doing in agriculture is upgrading the wonderful work that we 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 bi-lateral Corporation between two countries, yet the Israeli "Centre for Excellence" for Indian farmers is not a viable business yet. Why?
The centre of excellence by definition is not a business like a project. It was never thought or planned to be a business. It is what we call the developmental corporation. Meaning both `countries will come together, build on their strengths and blend them together and build the wonderful centre for excellence. We are talking about 15 centres of excellence throughout India until the end of 2017, which will be our 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Maybe the next stage and we are working on it will be a business. Like repetition of the centre for excellence but this time it will be a business. So we will talk in 2-3 years and we will see how will the business thrive and bring more products and productivity for Indian markets.

Why is the Israeli private sector struggling to find its feet in India? Israeli small scale and medium scale industries are seen 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 more activity. So I would say that the Indian market is different we are now adjusting ourselves to doing business in India is our priority. Sit back, relax and enjoy the growing relationship.

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 if you look at the visits of the PM's and the Presidents it has encouraged trends of bringing more people to business, tourism and studies.


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