Will provide whatever ‘friend’ India needs to defend itself: Israel ambassador Ron Malka
Israel won’t be found wanting in meeting India’s requirements to defend itself against all challenges and hostilities though such cooperation is not directed against any other country, Israeli ambassador Ron Malka has said.
The normalisation of ties between Israel and key West Asian states such as the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain presents new opportunities for trilateral cooperation with India in areas such as trade and technology, Malka said in an interview.
In an effort to boost cooperation with India in water management, an area in which Israel possesses the world’s leading technologies and expertise, the country will soon post a “water attaché” at its embassy in New Delhi and undertake an end-to-end project covering 25 villages in a semi-arid region of Uttar Pradesh focused on conservation, purification, recharging groundwater and irrigation techniques, he said.
Responding to a question on whether India had made any emergency requests for defence equipment amid the border standoff with China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Malka said: “Since we have a strong friendship, whatever India needs from Israel to defend itself, we are there and available to India because this is how we manage our friendships and especially a precious friendship like with India.
“But I have to stress that we are not against anyone, we have enough [problems of our own], so we are not against anyone but we are in favour of India...and we also trust India and the bold and strong leadership of India, that India knows how to manage its affairs wisely.”
He added, “You don’t need us for that, you just need us to share with you the experience and practices since we share similar challenges and similar hostilities. So of course, there is so much we can share but we are not against anyone but only very strongly in favour of India.”
India-Israel defence cooperation has advanced from a buyer-seller relationship to a key strategic partnership, Malka said. “We are working on a regular basis with India, sharing research and development, information and experience,” he said.
Referring to the Abraham Accords and Israel’s normalisation of ties with the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, Malka said this has opened new doors for trilateral cooperation. “Given the fact that Israel and the UAE are defined as key strategic partners of India, those distant partners now form relations...and I understand there is a big opportunity for India.”
This atmosphere for normalising relations was reflected in the recent decision by Israel and Bhutan to establish diplomatic relations, he said. “Israel is trying to make as many friends as we can, it is part of our vision and values...There have been bilateral relations between Israel and Bhutan for many, many years, this warm friendship matured to the stage that we decided to formalise and start a formal relationship between the nations,” he added.
Israel, the UAE and India are all focused on innovation and technology, and each country brings “comparative advantages to the table” and a lot of “added value to each other”. Malka pointed out that the Indo-Israeli Chambers of Commerce had opened an international office in Dubai because of the huge potential in trilateral collaboration and identified water security, food security and healthcare as potential areas for cooperation.
The three countries will work together “to make each other more self-reliant because if there is one lesson that we learnt from this pandemic, every country should be more self-reliant”, he said.
To give fresh impetus to Israel’s efforts aimed at water management in India, Israeli foreign minister Gabi Ashkenazi has cleared a long-standing proposal to post a “water attaché” at the embassy in New Delhi.
“We have signed a MoU with Uttar Pradesh for a flagship water project that will bring in Israel’s holistic approach for water and agriculture, we are going to work in a semi-arid area with 25 villages on both sides of the equation – the sources and the uses of water – to make it very efficient,” Malka said.
A feasibility study for the project will soon be carried out. “It will be successful because it’s a proven concept in Israel. After we finish that, we can just replicate it in many places,” he said.