Israel and India talk tighter security ties during president's visit

Israel seeking free trade agreement with India; 20 education collaboration agreements signed

November 17, 2016 23:55
4 minute read.
Reuven Rivlin

President Rivlin at the Taj Mahal. . (photo credit: PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON OFFICE)

NEW DELHI – Israel wants to increase its security and defense ties with India, as the two countries are joined in their battle to fight terrorism and radicalism, President Reuven Rivlin said on Thursday in New Delhi.

“There is positive and growing cooperation between our countries in many areas of defense and security,” Rivlin said in the midst of an eight-day visit, which he hoped would pave the way for a free trade agreement between the two countries. “We also face a common challenge in fighting terrorism and radicalism.”

The event was hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry and the Observer Research Foundation, to help Rivlin mark 25 years of diplomatic relations between India and Israel.

The Israeli and Indian business people are looking to link the market potential in India – a country of 1.2 billion people – with the innovation of the Start-Up Nation whose population numbers 8.5 million. Despite the size difference, Rivlin said that this was an equal partnership in which both nations had something to contribute.

“We are here to ‘Make in India’ and to ‘Make with India’, we are here to help economies flourish together in full partnership for the benefit of us all,” Rivlin said.

Bi-lateral trade between the countries is at $4 billion, with Israel importing some $2 billion and exporting $2 billion, according to Dan Catarivas of the Manufacturers Association of Israel. Association President Shraga Brosh said that he and his Indian counterpart have agreed to work “to triple trade and cooperation between our two countries in the coming years.”

In a speech before the Israel India Innovation Partnership, Rivlin said that “since September 2014, when Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi introduced his brave ‘Make in India’ initiative, your country has become the top global destination for direct foreign investment. I come here today to say loud and clear: India is a top trading partner for Israel today. Together, we have built a powerful and strong market. And together we must work to make this market even stronger.”

Trade between the countries includes water treatment, telecom products, optics, metals, defense, aviation, agriculture, diamonds, chemicals and medical equipment, he said, adding that although Israel has scarce water resources, “we have managed to meet all of our water needs through technical solutions. India can greatly benefit from our experience.”

Rivlin explained that Israel is not “just short of rain, but rich with sunlight,” which is why the county has developed solar energy solutions that could be helpful, particularly for Indian farmers.

He said that there are already programs that bring thousands of Indian farmers to Israel, and that expanding these initiatives would greatly improve their quality of life.

“Even as we look with satisfaction at the rapidly growing trade relations between our countries, the potential for India-Israel trade can and should grow even larger,” said Rivlin. “We would like to see in the future more mutual investment and trade. Indeed, the possibilities before us are endless. I express here today an official Israeli hope that this visit to India will open the way to a full free trade agreement between our countries. And I am sure that free trade agreement will boost our economies.”

Israel and India also signed more than 20 education collaboration agreements on Thursday with India and its institutions of higher learning.

“Ten percent of all foreign students and scholars in Israel today are from India, and 40 joint research projects were supported by both governments,” Rivlin said. “Most Israeli universities teach Indian studies, and in Tel Aviv University you can learn to speak Marathi. I truly believe that the academic cooperation between India and Israel is a top priority for both nations, both people.”

During his trip which began on Monday and ends next Monday, Rivlin underscored the deep links between two ancient nations, with a history of fighting for freedom. He referenced the ancient Jews who took their own life in the dessert hilltop fortress of Masada rather than allow the Romans to enslave them.

“What is less known is that those Jewish fighters on Massada took the people of India as their role model,” said Rivlin. “They saw in the people of India a nation of cherished liberty more than anything else.”

Two thousand years later, the two nations each fought the British empire for the right to be a free and independent state.

“It was again the liberation of India in 1947 that paved the way for our independence a year later in 1948,” he said. “Both India and Israel were liberated from British rule, becoming strong and stable democratic states.”

Rivlin laid a wreath on Thursday at the Teen Murti monument to fallen Indian soldiers from World War I. Among them were Indian soldiers who fought with the British army against the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East, including in Haifa.

Before leaving India on Monday night, Rivlin will also participate in a memorial ceremony to the six Jewish victims of the 2008 terror attack on the Chabad building in Mumbai. Four of the victims were Israelis.

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