Foreign secretary S Jaishankar is embarking on a two-day trip to Tel Aviv next Thursday to finalise the July visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that will bring the 25-year relationship totally above board with a focus on agriculture, desalination of sea water for drinking purposes and sanitation.
Jaishankar is expected in Israel on May 18-19 for meetings with his counterpart Yuval Rotem and Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. The Foreign secretary and his Israeli counterparts will discuss the agreement expected to be signed during Modi’s visit.
Jaishankar is going at a time when the entire Israeli government would be preparing for a day’s visit by US President Donald Trump. Modi will be in Israel on July 5-6 to mark the 25th anniversary of diplomatic ties.
Government sources told HT that Jaishankar’s visit will follow the just-concluded trip of agriculture secretary Sobhan Pattanayak, water resources secretary Amarjeet Singh and drinking water and sanitation secretary Parmeswaran Iyer this week.
While the focus of Pattanayak’s visit was to increase cooperation in agriculture technologies in arid areas with pin-pointed irrigation, the two other secretaries focused on the Sorek desalination plant, 15 km south of Tel Aviv. The world’s largest sea water desalination plant with an output of 624,000 cubic meters of drinking water per day, Sorek along with three other desalination plants has turned Israel from a water-deficit nation to a surplus one. Three other plants—at Ashkelon, Palmahim and Hadera—along the Mediterranean coast produce 290 million cubic of water per year. “India is looking towards setting up desalination plants on the Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu coast in future to remove drinking water scarcity,” said a senior official.
India-Israel defence ties will also get a fillip in the run-up to Modi’s visit, with Tel Aviv offering a medium-altitude long-endurance missile-firing drone to New Delhi during defence secretary G Mohan Kumar’s visit last month. However, the Modi government is keen on “Make in India” in defence on the lines of Punj Lloyd setting up units for Tavor assault rifles, Galil sniper rifles, Negev light machine guns as well as a Jericho pistol factory in collaboration with Israeli Weapon Industries in Malanpur, Madhya Pradesh, on May 4.
During Modi’s trip, the focus will be on high-end technologies developed by the Israelis, including close cooperation in cyber security to prevent attacks from enemy nations.
Apart from this, the two countries will further cement cooperation in intelligence sharing in the context of terrorist groups such as Islamic State in West Asia and Islamic jihadist groups based in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.