Future prosperity in India must go hand in hand with the country’s rural sides

It is not surprising that Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiated a diplomatic pivot to Israel in 2014.

By
June 29, 2016 20:29
3 minute read.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

ndian Prime Minister visits an IAI booth at Aero India 2015 exhibitition. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Unlike centrally planned China, India follows a federal system of governance.

With significant powers in the fields of economy, education and social welfare resting in the hands of individual states, decentralization has created unequal results across the country – 69 years after India’s independence.

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If the State of Gujarat boasts of hitting double-digit industrial growth year-on-year, and the State of Kerala prides itself in maintaining over 90 percent literacy rate, the State of Bihar is still mired in age-old caste-based conflicts and the State of Jammu and Kashmir has been devastated by decades of cross-border terrorism.

To engage with India is to engage with all the divergent strands of this subcontinental tapestry. Lack of a “single-window clearance” or differing regulations can be extremely challenging for any meaningful trade or bilateral cooperation.

However, less than 25 years since Israel and India established full diplomatic relations, Israel’s bilateral ties with India have come a long way and its diplomacy has learned to cope with this regional diversity and strengthen diplomatic, trade and technological cooperation.

Creating partnerships at state levels and addressing developmental needs of the states have paid their dividends.

It is not surprising that Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiated a diplomatic pivot to Israel in 2014, considering his personal experience managing projects in economic and social sector with Israeli partners for over a decade as the chief minister of Gujarat.

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Along with Gujarat, the states of Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Haryana have developed strong ties with Israel in recent years. Israeli expertise in agriculture technology has been at the forefront of a growing bilateral cooperation. Under the Indo-Israel Agriculture Project (IIAP) initiated in 2006, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation MASHAV has so far set up around 26 Agriculture Centers (Centers of Excellence) spread across the country in nine different states – out of 29 Indian states in total. These Centers of Excellence give farmers access to Israeli technology adapted to Indian conditions by local experts.

The project has been so successful that Indian states are now aiming to replicate Israeli success in agriculture. In May, Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis called for adapting Israeli best practices in agriculture in his state by investing more in research and bringing all stakeholders on board.

Last week, the Chief Minister of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, announced his plan to open Centers of Excellence based on Israeli model in all 21 districts in the state.

The North Indian state of Haryana, with a population of 25 million, currently has five agriculture Centers of Excellence managed by MASHAV.

“State government shall set up Centers of Excellence in all districts with cooperation of Israel to promote horticulture in the state,” said Manohar Lal on June 15, after his meeting with Ambassador Daniel Carmon, Israel’s envoy to India.

“The land to set up such centers would be identified by November 1, and the centers would be developed in the next two years.”

Apart from agriculture, cooperation in the fields of water management, urban development (smart cities) and education were also discussed in that meeting.

“Haryana is a very strong partner of the Indo-Israel agriculture project (IIAP),” said Ohad Horsandi, spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi. “As part of the IIAP cooperation there are five Centers of Excellence through this project in cooperation with MASHAV, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation and the MIDH under the Ministry of Agriculture of India. Now, the government of Haryana wants to take it forward and to set up more centers based on the IIAP model in each district.”

India’s agriculture sector still employs half of the country’s workforce, while contributing only around 17% to the country’s GDP.

With major cash crops still at the mercy of monsoon rains, and modern know-how and techniques yet to impact the agriculture sector, the greatest challenge India faces today is to make agriculture profitable for its hundreds of millions of farmers.

Even as India strives to become a global hub in information technology and manufacturing, the road to country’s lasting prosperity cannot bypass rural India, but will have to be paved through it. As decision-makers across India come to appreciate the power of technology in uplifting their communities, Israel’s expertise in agriculture, water and clean technology is poised to play a significant role in India’s long march to modernity.

The writer is an Indian analyst based in Europe.

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