Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has said that strong collaboration with Israel has the potential to address four core areas outlined by his government – strengthening agriculture sector, resolving water crisis, boosting internal security and promoting innovation.
Rupani, who is in Israel on a six-day visit, said it is not a “mere coincidence” that he chose Israel as his first destination abroad but he genuinely feels that there are plenty of opportunities of collaboration between the two sides.
“I had decided that my first trip abroad will be to Israel as it has excelled in all the four areas outlined by me,” Rupani told PTI.
With a water crisis looming large in Gujarat causing widescale farmer discontent, Rupani has visited facilities of several leading Israeli firms in the field of water management to find solutions to overcome water crisis in the state.
Downplaying the crisis, Rupani said that there is a three-fold solution available to end the crisis where Israeli experience can be very helpful.
“If we compare our situation with Israel, we are much better off. Rainfall in Gujarat is much higher compared to here. Secondly, we also have a huge water source in the Narmada river. Thirdly, we have a 1,600 km coastline”, he said.
“What is praiseworthy about Israel is recycling of water and nearly 100 per cent re-use of wastewater. We are barely able to do about two per cent. As per my discussions here they have managed almost 100 per cent. If we also move in that direction it can help solve the water crisis,” the chief minister said.
“In addition, Israel has been very successful with desalination. We have also issued a tender through which the project will generate 10 crore litres of water per day. A tender for a consultant has been issued also for the Dahej area where equal amount of water will be generated through desalination,” he said.
The chief minister considers this a small beginning and emphasises that a combination of three-fold effort – setting up of 7-8 large desalination units, planned use of natural water sources and a concerted effort to promote recycling and re-use of water can go a long way in solving the water problem in the state.
“We will make use of Israel’s expertise in water management. If we succeed in our plans, we can overcome water crisis even in a situation where there isn’t adequate amount of rainfall,” he asserted.
The state stopped the use of Narmada water for irrigation from March 5 and has been finding it difficult to supply drinking water across the state, as per media reports.
Chief Minister Rupani and his team have visited almost every known Israeli company in the field of agriculture, water management and internal security solution providers. He also met Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel and the two sides decided to set up a Joint Working Group to boost cooperation in the field of agriculture and horticulture.
“Gujarat has three Centres of Excellence opened by Israel which are operational and farmers in the state have benefitted from them. They are very popular among the farmers in Gujarat,” Rupani noted.
Rupani said, “the farmers in Gujarat are ready to benefit from high-precision and digital equipment backed agriculture in use here”.
Responding to a question regarding availability of large landholdings, a basic requirement for high precision digital farming, Rupani said that the state has a lot of unused arid land and there is also a possibility of cooperative farming by bringing in small-scale farmers into the scheme as partners.
Rupani also met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and they agreed to boost cooperation in the field of cybersecurity to prevent cyber crimes.
Gujarat plans to “extensively use” Israeli capabilities to combat cybercrime and has sought its cooperation to boost the state’s initiatives in the field of forensic science, the chief minister said.
“The law and order situation in the state is among the best in the country. However, the latest challenge to law and order comes from the virtual world with cyber crimes on the rise. With smartphones and other gadgets becoming so common, we need to be prepared to prevent cyber crimes,” Rupani said.
“We have seen some of the demonstrations by leading Israeli players in this field and are open to extensively use relevant Israeli capabilities to build our own initiatives,” Rupani added.
Gujarat is already using some Israeli solutions to combat cyber crimes but the current tour of Rupani is likely to intensify the cooperation.
Aiming at providing skilled and trained manpower to investigative and security agencies across the globe, Gujarat has established the world’s first forensic science university at Gandhinagar, he pointed out.
“The Gujarat Government has also recently approved the establishment of four cyber cells in the state,” he added.
Netanyahu during the meeting suggested ways for Gujarat to benefit from the country’s wide-ranging cyber apprenticeship programme.
“I think it is something we can definitely look into”, Rupani said.
He also met the Gujarati business community whom he described “as a bridge between the two countries” and “hard-working people who have kept the flag of India flying”.
“Their stories are quite inspiring,” Rupani noted.
On diamond trade, he said, “we are working on the diamond bourse dream city in Gujarat and almost everybody in the trade will open offices there. We are going to consolidate almost whole of diamond cutting business in Gujarat. We have immense possibilities and are determined to take advantage of it”.
Nearly half of the bilateral trade between India and Israel is in diamonds where Gujarat plays an important role.