Israel to share Expertise & Technology with Assam: Israeli Envoy
Israel’s Ambassador to India, Dr. Ron Malka, was in Guwahati on Wednesday, 1 May to deliver the 6th Professor Sarat Mahanta Memorial Lecture, where he said that Israel looks forward to sharing its expertise and technology in various fields, including agriculture, energy and water management, with Assam. Dr. Malka further added that he had “fruitful discussions” with Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. He also expressed confidence that Israel’s engagement with Assam will witness progress in future.
Speaking on ‘Israel’s Economy and India and Israel’s Bilateral Relations: Past, Present & the Future’ at the Royal Global University, Dr. Malka said that even the sky is not the limit to enhancing cooperation in various fields between the two countries.
“There is no limit to the help Israel will give to India, which is a precious friend,” he said. Listing out the areas of cooperation between the two countries, the Israeli envoy said that various working groups have been set up to monitor progress and ensure implementation of MoUs in many sectors within a given time frame.
India, the envoy pointed out, is 150 times bigger than Israel, which has a total area of 22,072 square kilometres, and is the tiniest country in the entire Middle East, Asia and North Africa About 77.6% of Israel’s citizens are ‘Sabras’, the nickname given to people born in Israel, while the remaining 22.4% are Israelis who migrated from other countries. Fourteen percent of Israel’s population are of European origin, 4.4% of Middle Eastern origin, 2.1% migrated from the Americas, 1.2% from Africa and 0.6% from Asia and other regions. A total of 75% of Israel’s population are Jews, 20.7% are Arabs, 1.5% are Druze and the remaining 2.8% follow other faiths.
Israel’s GDP in current prices was the same as Egypt, the Arab Republics, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria in 1960. While Israel’s economy started improving since the late 1970s and started rising steeply after a decade, the economies of its neighbours remained stagnant or improved only marginally. Since the turn of this century, Israel’s GDP started rising exponentially and the rise has continued at the same breathtaking pace, which the only other economies of the region, that of Egypt and the Arab Republics, that kept pace with Israel’s started have been experiencing a freefall since 2016. Israel is the only country in its neighbourhood whose per capita GDP has consistently risen.
India and Israel share a long history. India recognized Israel without establishing formal relations in the 1950s, and it was only in 1992 that full diplomatic ties were established between the two countries. President Ezer Weizman was the first Israeli head of state to visit India in 1996, while Ariel Sharon was the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India in 2003. Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Israel in 2015 was the first by an Indian President to that country, while President Rivlin visited India in 2016 and again in 2018. Prime Minister Modi visited Israel in 2017, followed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India in January 2018.
India and Israel, said Dr Malka, are collaborating in the fields of water, agriculture, education, innovation, defence, HLS, cyber, finance, health, space, energy and tourism. In the water sector, the focus is on water--management, conservation, desalination, recycling, enhancement and irrigation. There are many Israeli-led water projects in many Indian states, including Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Of these, drip irrigation projects account for 531 million US dollars (Rs 3690.4 crore), water treatment projects 8.78 million US dollars (Rs 6102 lakh) and water planning infrastructure 282 million US dollars (Rs 1959.9 crore).
Israeli agro-technology expertise in water and wastewater management irrigation, post-harvest, greenhouses, fertilizers and pesticides, seeds, dairy farming and aquaculture, mechanization and turnkey projects in engineering and consultancy is being shared with India. The Indo-Israeli agriculture projects involve 16 state partners, and there are 25 fully active centres of excellence spread over 16 states. These centres of excellence are advanced and intensive agriculture farms that are a platform of knowledge transfer of Israeli agro-technology.
Dr Malka said that during President Reuven Rivlin’s 2016 visit to India, more than 20 MoUs were signed between 15 Israeli universities and academic institutions and their Indian counterparts. Jindal University and IIM Bangalore now offer Israel Studies programme. Indian students constitute 10% of the total number of foreign students studying in Israel. More than 200 scholarships to study in Israel are offered to Indian students every year.
India and Israel are cooperating in air, maritime and land defence and in military communications and technology systems. There are more than 2000 start-ups among the 5000 plus companies in Israel. Innovation is spread widely across all domains from bio-meds to financial technology, he said, adding that Israel ranks second in R&D spending per GDP, the first in R&D spending per capita, the first in patent applications per capita and the first in venture capital investment per capita.
Israel, said the envoy, is the world leader in cyber security and 20% of the total global investments in cyber security happens in Israel. Israel has acquired decades of knowledge in cardiology, neurology, diabetes, rehabilitation, respiratory diseases, oncology, genomics, ophthalmology, orthopaedics and medication management and is keen on sharing these with India, he said. India and Israel are also cooperating very closely in the energy sector, particularly in exploring new reserves. Israel is working towards starting directing flights from that country to a few more Indian cities and hoped that, in future, direct flights will start between Israel and Guwahati too.
MoUs and agreements were inked during the visits of Prime Ministers of both countries in 2017 and 2018 in film co-production, water conservation, cyber security, oil & gas, air transport, industrial research & development, water utility reform, space and investments, Dr. Malka added.
Assam Finance Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma, in his speech at the event, said that the scope of collaboration between Assam and Israel in agriculture and other fields was vast. Assam Agriculture Minister Atul Bora also said that Assam hoped to gain from Israel’s expertise in agriculture and technology. Noted journalist and human rights activist Ajit Bhuyan, who is also the chairperson of the Dr Sarat Mahanta Memorial Foundation, recalled his association with Professor Mahanta in his welcome address.
CM Sonowal along with Israel’s Ambassador to India, Dr. Ron Malka