Defence, counter-terrorism to top Sushma’s Israel agenda

New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) Cooperation in defence and counter-terrorism will be among the top priorities of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Israel next week, Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon said on Wednesday.

“We attach great importance to this visit,” Carmon said at a media briefing here.

Stating that India and Israel shared common values and similar challenges, he said that Sushma Swaraj’s visit on January 17-18 would include discussions on bilateral developments between the business communities and governments of the two sides.

Among the areas of cooperation that the two countries would discuss when the Indian minister would meet with the top Israeli leadership were counter-terrorism, defence relations, agriculture and water management, academia, cyber and innovation.

“Defence cooperation has been the central pillar of our relationship,” Carmon said.

He said Israeli defence manufacturing companies were “open and flexible” to the idea of ‘Make in India’.

Asked if this also meant transfer of technology, he said it could be that too.

Carmon said India-Israel defence ties have gone way beyond buyer and seller relationship.

“Tests have been successfully carried in Israel and India of the Barak 8 (surface-to-air missile). It was a joint R&D (research and development) project,” he said.

As for cooperation in counter-terrorism activities, he said: “We should do more and go beyond the established fields.”

He said 28 Israelis were killed and hundreds of others injured due to terrorism since September last year and homeland security was another priority that would be discussed during the course of the Sushma Swaraj’s visit.

Carmon said agriculture was a new element of the relationship between India and Israel and the focus this time would be on water management.

“We are developing centres of excellence in 10 states of India with Israeli experts and technology,” he said.

“One of these centres will be a model for similar centres in other countries.”

According to the ambassador, Israel has faced the challenge of water scarcity.

“Part of our country was a desert that we have developed into a blooming area,” he said.

He said when President Pranab Mukherjee visited Israel in October last year, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered cooperation between India and Israel in the field of water management.

“We will be collaborating with the Indian private sector and are in close contact with your ministry of water resources and Ganga rejuvenation,” Carmon said.

As for cooperation in the field of academia, he said there should be more interaction between the two countries in science, technology, and joint research besides increase in scholarships and student visits.

“We should know each other better,” he said.

The ambassador also said innovation was on the top of the agenda for cooperation between India and Israel.

“Israel is already a start-up nation. India too will become a start-up nation,” he said.

As for cooperation in the field of cyber security, Carmon said Israel was a leader in this and referred to the visit of renowned Israeli cyber expert Roni Zehav, co-founder and CEO of CyberSpark Industry Initiative to Mumbai last month for a round-table hosted by the Israeli consulate there.

Cyberspark was created to advance research and development of cyber solutions in Israel’s Beer-Sheva, along with developing a thriving eco-system that includes Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the municipality, the industry and the government-Israeli National Cyber Bureau.

The ambassador also said Sushma Swaraj, during her visit, would meet with members of the Jewish Indian and Indian communities too.

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