'Delhi attackers will be brought to justice'

Visiting Indian Minister Kamal Nath says attacks will probably not harm Iranian-Indian trade.

By NADAV SHEMER
February 14, 2012 17:08
3 minute read.
Shalom Simhon, Indian development minister nath

Shalom Simhon, Indian development minister nath_390. (photo credit: Yossi Zamir)

The Indian government condemns “in no uncertain words” Monday’s attack against Israeli Embassy staff in New Delhi and is confident of bringing the culprits to justice, Indian Urban Development Minister Kamal Nath said in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

But when The Jerusalem Post asked whether he agreed with speculations that the attack would harm efforts to maintain economic links with sanctions-hit Iran, Nath – who spoke at a seminar on Indian-Israeli trade – said, “I don’t think so.”

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New Delhi and Jerusalem have blamed Tehran for the attack, in which a bomb exploded inside the car of an Israeli defense official’s wife, wounding four people. Tehran has denied the charge.

Earlier Tuesday, All India Rice Exporters’ Association President Vijay Setia told Reuters that tensions the attack had generated would “complicate matters further” and dampen Indian trade sentiments toward Iran. India is Iran’s biggest supplier of rice, and is considering increasing exports to reduce its $11 billion annual oil bill from the country.

At the Tel Aviv seminar, Energy and Water Minister Uzi Landau said Israel would not allow the threat of terrorism to weaken its own trade links with India.

On the contrary, he said, the answer to this latest terrorist attack was “to step up activities between our two countries.”

Landau and former industry, trade and labor minister Ran Cohen both said they believed bilateral trade could reach $15b.

per year once negotiations for a free trade agreement were completed. Trade is worth approximately $5b. per year at present. Excluding diamonds, bilateral trade actually decreased 6 percent to $2.25b. in 2011, making India Israel’s 13th-largest trade partner, according to the Israel Export Institute.

Nath said India and Israel had formed a strong economic relationship since establishing diplomatic relations 20 years ago. He said the partnership in agriculture was the foundation for this, but that it was in India’s interests to expand relations even further because of what Israel had demonstrated to the world in the fields of water management and land productivity.

If one takes away the mountains, forests, rivers and desert, India is a densely populated country, which means it must introduce new ways of maximizing productivity from small land holdings, Nath said. He added, “What better country to partner with than Israel, which has built up expertise over the years?”

Nath said another area for potential Israeli involvement was in helping India achieve its target of adding 60,000 megawatts to its power capacity in the next five years. Although the Indian economy has grown at an average of 8% in the past few years, its infrastructure lagged behind, he said, and “what we build in the next five years is not building for the future, but catching up with the past.”

The minister pointed out that the Israel Ports Development and Assets Company recently won a tender to build a new container port in the town of Nargol, about 100 kilometers north of Mumbai.

He listed several other major infrastructure projects that have already begun or are being planned, including construction of 7,000 km. of highway each year and of metro train systems in all 28 cities with a population of more than two million people.

Nath met with Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon and Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz during his three-day visit, where he discussed enhancing cooperation in urban development, town planning and related infrastructure.

He and Landau signed a joint declaration in which they agreed to establish a working group to plan for long-term cooperation on matters related to water, waste water and sewage management.

The group will also examine the possibility of creating a pilot study and commercial demonstration centers which would serve as a platform for presenting Israeli technologies to India.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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