Two decades after New Delhi established formal ties with Jerusalem, Israel’s diplomatic corps here has learnt to do business with India the smart way. They are now focusing on forging partnerships with India’s provincial governments, including the four prosperous southern states, far away from the politically-sensitive relations with the Centre.
Speaking to Express, Israeli Ambassador to India, Alon Ushpiz talked about ‘triangle of partnership’ between Israel, Centre and the states, which has provided heft to bilateral relations. Having recently opened its third consulate in Bangalore, Israel also entered into its first ever cooperation agreement with a state government, to facilitate research and development projects. “There is a lot going on outside Delhi,” the envoy said.
While Ushpiz has been a regular visitor to Andhra Pradesh, and lately to Karnataka, he is yet to make an official trip to the other two states. “I had gone to Kerala on a private visit. It was the most fascinating place,” he said. He has plans to visit Tamil Nadu to ‘rectify’ his omission, but noted that they have big projects lined up with the state.
In Tamil Nadu, Israel is collaborating in intensive vegetable production at Hosur and canopy management training of traditional mango plantations at Krishnagiri, while in Karnataka, there are plans to establish centres of excellence for floriculture, fruits and vegetables.
Besides agriculture, business interests are also a strong draw in the southern states, with many of Israel’s top Information Technology firms located in Karnataka. In the other states, there are big outposts by Israeli agro-tech firms. ‘Netafim’, the largest Israeli drip irrigation company, has a major centre in Tamil Nadu and ‘Machteshim’, an agro-chemical firm has set up shop in Hyderabad.
With the revival of the Arab-Israeli peace process being strenuously mooted by US Secretary of State John F Kerry, India has repeatedly stressed that Israel should remove its settlements and return immediately to the negotiating table. The Israeli envoy reiterated his country’s position that both sides should return to the peace process “without any preconditions”. “It has been proven in the past that settlements are not an obstacle,” he said. “When Israelis speak to India on terrorism, it is easy to understand the challenges and vice-versa,” he pointed out.
Pointing out that the matter was sub-judice, Ushpiz said, “Corruption is corruption. It should be dealt with according to the law”, adding that Israel shall always be a ‘true friend’. It’s been more than a year since a car bomb targeted an Israel diplomat, but investigations seems to have meandered with no major breakthroughs, with the sole suspect released on bail. Ushpiz reiterated Israel’s claim that Iranian government agents were behind the attack. While India had listed Iranian nationals in its chargesheet, a Delhi Police team sent to Tehran had returned empty-handed.On the pace of the probe, the envoy asserted, “I don’t have the slightest doubt that justice will be done”.