Forty-eight hours before Narendra Modi lands in Tel Aviv for the first ever visit to the country by an Indian Prime Minister, Indian Ambassador to Israel Pavan Kapoor Sunday described the occasion as the “formal coming out of the relationship” between the two countries. “This is the formal coming out of the relationship…the visit is a milestone, by itself,” Kapoor told The Indian Express. Speaking at his modest office overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv, Kapoor said that the Prime Minister will arrive in Israel Tuesday with a clear message: “We are here to partner with you.”
The visit is expected to focus on terrorism and counter-terrorism cooperation, with Modi scheduled to stay at the historic King David hotel in Jerusalem, about 70 km from Tel Aviv. However, Kapoor emphasised that the visit would focus on “development”, and that the agenda includes “agriculture, water, science and technology, and innovation”.
To drive home the point, Modi will be heading to an agriculture farm soon after landing in Tel Aviv Tuesday afternoon. “He will be shown innovative technology…what Israel calls ‘precision agriculture’. The idea is to use technology efficiently so that crop yield and productivity is high,” said Kapoor.
Modi will also be shown water management, treatment and purification technologies. “There is lot to learn from Israel, when it comes to water management. This is a country, which was water-deficit and is now water-surplus. It sells water to Jordan,” Kapoor said.
While innovation and technology is one of the key areas of the relationship, the two sides will also discuss defence and counter-terrorism cooperation. “All items are on the agenda, including counter-terrorism,” said Kapoor. But official sources said that no defence deals are expected to be signed during the visit, since it is an “ongoing process”. Bala Bhaskar, joint secretary in charge of India’s relations with Israel, described defence deals as a “cumbersome exercise”, which requires negotiations between technical experts.
During the visit, the Prime Minister will also meet 10-year-old Moshe and his grandparents, and part-time nanny Sandra, who had saved the boy during the 26/11 attacks on Chabad House in Mumbai.
The Prime Minister will also address the Indian community here in an event that is expected to be attended by around 4,000 people. Also on the Prime Minister’s itinerary, said officials, is an interaction with the student community in Israel, mainly from the agriculture, chemistry and biology streams.
Asked about his expectations from the visit, Prof Joseph Klafter, president, Tel Aviv University, said, “I hope it will further boost the already strong educational and research ties between our two countries. The India-Israel relationship is poised to become broad, inclusive and influential, and I view cooperation in higher education as the bridge for that.”
Klafter said, “I am convinced that we can do a great deal more to deepen research ties. I’d like to see our respective governments and business communities pour more resources into India-Israel scientific cooperation and exchange. Support is especially vital for shared priority fields such as food security, water, precise agriculture, cyber and IoT, biomed and communications. Joint R&D will help drive innovation and enhance the knowledge economies in both countries.
Klafter also said that the visit would be a “tremendous opportunity” for faculty and student exchange, and for bringing more Indian students, PhD candidates and post-docs to Israeli universities. “Our Indian student population at Tel Aviv University has quadrupled over the last few years and each graduate who goes home to India expands and extends our bilateral friendship in an outstanding ripple effect,” he said.