Defence, agriculture and water management may be among the major sectors of cooperation between India and Israel, but during Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to India next week, innovation will top the agenda, Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon said on Friday.
Speaking at a media briefing here ahead of the prime ministerial visit, Carmon said cooperation in agriculture and water were the highlights of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel in July last year and the emphasis on this would continue.
“But I would say the most important element of what we want to put together on the joint table is innovation,” he said.
“Innovation that would, you know, touch any of the areas in which we cooperate. Innovation could be in the field of defence, innovation could be in the field of agriculture, innovation could be in the field of IT, of R&D.”
The Ambassador described innovation as a “cross-cutting issue” and said this would be reflected in the discussions between Prime Ministers Modi and Netanyahu.
Carmon referred to the two Prime Ministers’ scheduled visit to the iCreate Innovation Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology on the outskirts of Ahmedabad and said that the centre “has a big clement of Israeli ecosystem in innovation”.
He said people from iCreate have been visiting Israel for training and attending seminars and “touched the Israeli way of looking at how to manage innovation”.
Ahead of the Prime Ministers’ visit, Carmon said there would be a meeting between the entrepreneurs from “start-up nation Israel” and people from the Start-up India initiative.
Regarding other aspects of Netanyahu’s six-day visit starting Sunday, Carmon said that apart from the summit level meeting on Jan 15, the second India-Israel CEOs Forum will be held as also a series of other meetings between both sides in New Delhi and Mumbai.
The visiting dignitary will be accompanied by a delegation of 130 Israeli business leaders.
Asked about the status of the India-Israel free trade agreement (FTA), Carmon said that the “FTA is definitely on our agenda”.
“Quite a few rounds of discussions on the FTA have been held,” he said. “I can tell you now that the next round of discussions will be held in February in Jerusalem.”
Netanyahu is also scheduled to visit a Centre of Excellence in Agriculture at Vardad, Gujarat, that has been set up with Israeli assistance.
Carmon said that by the end of this month “we will have 22 centres of excellence up and running across India”.
These centres of excellence set up with Israeli technology and knowhow cover areas like vegetables, citrus fruits, dates, mangoes, flowers, beekeeping, he said, adding that “we are now starting work on a dairy farm in Haryana”.
Netanyahu will also be accompanied by Moshe Holtzberg, whose parents, Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, were killed in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
Moshe, who was only two years old then, will visit Chabad House, where his parents were killed.
Netanyahu’s is the first prime ministerial visit from Israel to India since the visit of then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2003.