JERUSLAEM: “A marriage made in heaven, which is now being implemented on earth,” this is how Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu evocatively described India-Israel relations as the two countries elevated their relations to the level of strategic partnership and signed seven pacts in key areas, including agriculture, space and development cooperation.
The personal chemistry and camaraderie between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli host were all too visible and genuine as they rhapsodised about each other’s country, shared values and a kindred vision for a radiant future of India-Israel relations. The two leaders spoke with a sense of mission, which may have something to do with the ancient but modern city of Jerusalem, with Mr Netanyahu declaring in the tone of a prophet: It’s a partnership to seek the good and to achieve the good…This is a good day.”
It was clearly not just inspired rhetoric as the outcomes that emanated from over two hours of talks between the two leaders and their delegations were pragmatic and action-oriented, which would have transformative impact on the lives and fortunes of people in the two countries.
In political and strategic sense, the major takeaway was the elevation of relations, which were studiously kept discreet by New Delhi for fear of antagonising the Arab world, to the level of strategic partnership, underscoring the joint resolve of the two leaders to broad-base their partnership and imbue it with a long-term vision and plan of action. In a sense, what was once a live-in relationship seems to have now morphed into a happy and mutually fulfilling marriage, with the couple upfront about their love for each other. “This historic first-ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Israel solidified the enduring friendship between their peoples and raised the bilateral relationship to that of a strategic partnership,” said the joint statement.
This multi-dimensional strategic partnership, which has been fleshed out in the July 5 joint statement, was reflected in the seven agreements signed as well as in a broader alignment of national aspirations and ambitions of India and Israel. Defence will continue to be a robust pillar of India-Israel relations, but the accent will be on diversifying and widening the compass of partnership to include enhanced trade and investment, collaboration in innovation and research, tourism and people-to-people contacts.
From India’s point of view, the talks in Jerusalem have set out a detailed roadmap for enhancing cooperation in agriculture, technology and innovation. The setting up of $40 million the India-Israel Industrial R&D and Innovation Fund (I4F), with $20 million contribution each by both countries, will be a game-changer in incubating new joint enterprises and innovations. “This MoU will play a seminal role in enabling Indian and Israeli enterprises to undertake joint R&D projects leading to development of innovative technologies and products that have potential for commercial application,” said the joint statement.
Strategic Agriculture Partnership
Secondly, the forging of strategic partnership in agriculture and water underlines the critical importance of Israel, with its technologies for raising agricultural productivity, for India’s food security and stimulating a second green revolution. This decision to impart a strategic dimension to sustain and enhance ongoing cooperation in agriculture underlines the growing importance of food security and water security in India’s strategic calculus.
The “Strategic Partnership in Water and Agriculture” will focus on water conservation, waste-water treatment and its reuse for agriculture, desalination, water utility reforms, and the cleaning of the Ganges and other rivers using advanced water technologies. Building on the success of the 15 Centres of Excellence (COE) set up with Israeli assistance in six states of India, the two countries have decided to double the number of these centre and promote commercially viable business models involving Farmer Producer Organizations. Significantly, this strategic agriculture partnership dovetails with PM Modi’s dream of doubling the income of Indian farmers by 2022.
Space: Sky isn’t the limit!
The ongoing space cooperation acquired a new energy with the Israel Space Agency (ISA) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) signing three pacts and in areas of Atomic Clocks; GEO-LEO Optical Link; and academic collaboration and Electric propulsion for small satellites. Expanding space cooperation with India is close to Mr Netanyahu’s heart as it reinforces his formulation that the sky is not even the limit, opening new possibilities of India-Israel cooperation.
The agreements signed in Jerusalem on July 5 are set to have a transformational impact on the India-Israel partnership, but in the end the first prime ministerial visit will go down in history as marking the end of ambiguity about this mutually energising and empowering partnership and the forging of personal chemistry between the two charismatic leaders with their singular but kindred visions of national resurgence. The Israeli leader encapsulated the spirit of India-Israel: 2.0 relationship in his resonant formula I2T2 – Indian Talent X Israeli Technology = India-Israel Ties for Tomorrow.
“Our talks focused on not just areas of bilateral opportunities but also how our cooperation can help the cause of global peace and stability,” said Mr Modi.
If Indian talent and Israeli technology are married and fused, along with fostering of deep civilizational and people-to-people bonding, this “marriage made in heaven” could bear new flowers and fruits in days to come, imparting more content and depth to the newly-forged strategic partnership.
(Manish Chand is Editor-in-Chief of India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs, and www.indiawrites.org, a portal focused on mapping India’s global engagements. He is in Jerusalem to report and analyse India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit tom Israel. Follow him on twitter@scepticcryptic)
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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