Further deepening the already close defence ties will be a major focus of Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s eight-day trip to India beginning Monday during which both sides are also set to ink a number of MoUs to expand cooperation in areas of energy, agriculture and trade.
Ahead of Rivlin’s visit here, first by an Israeli President in nearly two decades, the Jewish country’s envoy Daniel Carmon said the bilateral defence ties were beyond buyer-seller and military-to-military relationship and the message will be to broaden it further besides boosting cooperation in some other sectors.
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During his stay, the Israeli President will hold extensive talks with his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi covering key bilateral and regional issues besides attending a ceremony in Taj Hotel and Chabad House in Mumbai to pay tribute to victims of 26/11 attack in which six Jews were also killed.
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On defence cooperation, Carmon said Israel has plans for fresh joint ventures and technology transfer in developing weapons systems and ensuring implementation of Modi’s Make in India initiative in the key sector which is a “major facet” of his country’s “special relationship” with India.
“It is a very deep relationship. India and Israel enjoy very unique relation in areas of defence…. There are plans for fresh joint venture and technology transfer,” he told reporters, refusing to go into specifics.
India is Israel’s largest buyer of military hardware and the latter has been supplying various weapons systems, missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles over the last few years but the transactions have largely remained behind the curtains.
Carmon said Rivlin’s “large” delegation will comprise honchos of top Israeli arms manufacturing companies and senior government officials dealing with matters relating to defence. Asked about Modi’s proposed visit to Israel, he said it will happen and will be a very important trip. It was being decided by the two governments when it will happen, the envoy said.
There were indications that the Prime Minister may visit Tel Aviv in first part of 2017 which will be 25th year of formal diplomatic ties between the two countries. India had established “full” diplomatic relationship with Israel in 1992 though it had recognised the country in 1950.
Asked about the proposed Free Trade Agreement between the two countries, he said its finalisation “should and could be a easier process henceforth”. The envoy said both countries are set to sign a raft of pacts in areas of education, energy, water, agriculture and research and development during Rivlin’s visit.
On Modi comparing India’s cross LoC military action against terror launchpads following Uri attack to Israeli-type response, the envoy said his country had to develop robust capability to protect its citizens, considering the geo-political situation.
He said Israel was ready to share with India its technology and enhance security ties. In October last year, President Mukherjee had visited Israel, the first by an Indian head of state. Rivlin will also visit Chandigarh where he will inaugurate an Agro Tech conference along with Mukherjee. President Rivlin will head business and academic delegations including chancellors of 12 Israeli universities as well as Israeli companies, some of which are already active and successful in India.
He said at least 15 MoUs are likely to be signed between Indian and Israeli educational institutions during the visit. Identifying agriculture and water conservation as key areas of cooperation, he said the number of agri centres set up by Israel in India will go up from current 15 to 40. The visit will focus on strengthening the ever growing economic ties between India and Israel in the fields of agriculture and water, and promoting academic cooperation, he said.
Asked about India attempting to strengthen ties with countries like Iran, UAE and Saudi Arabia, the envoy said Indo-Israel bilateral ties were not affected by New Delhi’s relationship with other nations.
In Agra, the Israeli President will visit Taj Mahal and an Israeli water treatment plant. He will also visit the Indo-Israeli Agricultural Project’s Center of Excellence in Karnal.