Narendra Modi’s visit could seal the free trade pact: Israel envoy to HT
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Israel will reflect the tremendous growth in diplomatic relations that were established 25 years ago and could serve as a catalyst for finalising a long-pending Free Trade Agreement, Israeli envoy Daniel Carmon said on Thursday.india Updated: Feb 03, 2017 13:21 IST
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Israel will reflect the tremendous growth in diplomatic relations that were established 25 years ago and could serve as a catalyst for finalising a long-pending Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Israeli envoy Daniel Carmon said on Thursday.
Such visits should become “part of the routine” as the two sides move closer because of shared values and common challenges, especially terrorism, Carmon said in a wide-ranging interview with Hindustan Times.
The growth in India-Israel ties reflected changes in the “architecture of world politics” and the rebalance in India’s relations with the Arab world and Israel, he said. “For India the relations were either with the Arab countries or with Israel. This is not the case anymore, now it is with the Arab countries and with Israel.”
He described defence cooperation as a key element in the ties but said Israel could be a source of cutting edge technology in areas such as agriculture, water management and irrigation.
Carmon also referred to Israel’s concerns about Iran, a key energy supplier for India, and said his country would not be satisfied till the “last perpetrator” responsible for a 2012 attack on Israeli diplomatic staff in New Delhi is brought to justice. Israel blamed the attack, which injured an embassy staffer, on Iran.
A visit to Israel by President Pranab Mukherjee was followed by a return visit by President Reuven Rivlin to New Delhi last year but no Indian premier has visited Israel since diplomatic ties were established in January 1992. The only Israeli premier to visit India was Ariel Sharon in 2003.
Referring to Modi’s planned visit, Carmon said: “The message that will be sent to the world…is a very strong message where without saying so, we will be saying where we were 25 years ago and where we are now.”
No dates have been announced for the visit though Modi is expected to travel to Israel in June or July.
Carmon described the proposed FTA as an “important ingredient” in bilateral ties for which some nine rounds of negotiations had already been held. “It’s long overdue, the political will is there. I hope it will happen soon… I hope the Prime Minister’s visit will be a good catalyst to bring some processes into fruition, including the FTA,” he added.
Bilateral trade has hovered around the $5-billion mark for the past few years and Israel is banking on technologies in fields such as drip irrigation, water management, desalination of sea water and horticulture to boost trade. Israeli firms have already established desalination units for eight industrial plants in India, including a nuclear power plant, he said.
Israeli firms have also made offers for the “Clean Ganga” campaign after analysing “part of the challenges” in rejuvenating the river, and 40 centres of excellence for horticulture and agriculture are being established, of which 15 are operational, he said.
The “Make in India” campaign has also been embraced by Israeli defence firms, which already have about half a dozen projects that are in the pipeline or operational, he added.
Carmon said Israeli’s concerns regarding Iran as “a negative influence on our region”, its use of proxies such as the Hezbollah and its nuclear programme had already been conveyed to India. Iran’s recent cruise missile test may not have violated its nuclear deal with Western powers but it breached “the spirit of the agreement”, he said.
The 25th anniversary of India-Israel ties coincides with the death of Carmon’s wife in a terror attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992 that was blamed by Tel Aviv on Iran. Describing terrorism as a “global plague”, he referred to the 2012 attack on Israeli diplomatic staff in New Delhi and said bringing to justice perpetrators of such assaults would be an effective deterrence.
“We know it takes time (but we) can never be satisfied till the last perpetrator is brought to justice,” he said.
Carmon also ruled out any possible role for India in talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. “We have a very clear policy…we have come a long time ago to the conclusion that our differences with our close neighbours…the discussions should be between both sides around one table, anywhere, not in New York, Geneva or at the UN, (or) in Paris but in our region…and it should be bilateral,” he said.
“India can contribute indirectly by having good relations with both sides... Anything that is not bilateral would defer the solution we all want –which is real, viable peace between us and our Palestinian neighbours.”