November 20, 2014 2:54:44 am
Israel is keen to capitalise on what it perceives as a change in New Delhi’s approach towards the ties between the two countries, top Israeli government sources said.
The sources added that Israel hopes the Free Trade Agreement between the two nations, which is being negotiated since 2010, finally materialises. “Being a superpower, we expect India to break out of its shell and openly pursue strategic and enonomic relations with Israel if it pleases, regardless of what others in the region may feel. This is the change that we are clearly seeing now from India. After all, the traditional stance of non-alignment is redundant now. Who are you going to be non-aligned with?” a senior Israeli government official said.
He was quick to add that diplomatic ties between the two countries were strong even during the UPA government’s rule. “We are clear that India’s ties with other nations does not affect our bilateral relations. As in any close relationship, we can disagree on certain issues.”
The official further added that as part of the bilateral relationship, Israel expects enhanced cooperation in research and development in sectors such as agriculture and water management, besides defence and homeland security.
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“We would, of course, like the Free Trade Agreement to be worked out,” said the official.
During his visit to India in October last year, Israel’s minister of economy Naftelli Bennet had estimated that bilateral trade between India and Israel, that stood at US$ 5 billion in 2013 (excluding defence sales), could double in the next five years if the Free Trade Agreement was worked out.
A senior Israel defence ministry official summed up current ties with India as, “The sky is the limit, and India will get whatever defence platform or technology she wants.”
He added: “If India wants the sophisticated technology behind the Iron Dome system to tweak it as per its own security needs, even that is possible. We are in this relationship for the long haul and view it as a marriage. That is why we are clear that we will not sell to Pakistan.”
Senior Israel government officials also said that while Israel maintained economic ties with China, it does not consider it a strategic relationship.
Reiterating that Israel had extended a standing invitation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to visit the country, a senior official in Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, “The visit of Home Minister Rajnath Singh earlier this month was very significant”.
The official further added, “We would now love to see some of our officials visiting New Delhi.”
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