New Delhi: Defence will be on top of the agenda during Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s visit next week, which will also witness signing of agreements on water, energy, agriculture and education.
Rivilin will be the first Israeli president to travel to India since 1996. In October 2015, Pranab Mukherjee became the first Indian head of state to visit Israel and Palestine.
This will likely be the last major bilateral visit before Narendra Modi travels to Israel as the first Indian prime minister next year. India and Israel are gearing up to mark 2017 as the 25th anniversary year for diplomatic relations between the countries which began on January 29, 1991.
At a press briefing about the visit, the Israel ambassador to India Daniel Carmon said that there would be a separate defence industry delegation accompanying the Israeli president in addition to a business delegation.
Carmon, however, did not go into specifics about the defence deals between Israel and India.
“India and Israel enjoy very unique and special relationship in the field of defence. It is an industrial type of cooperation, with research and development involved. It is beyond the buyer and seller prospects,” said Carmon.
Israel is now the third highest supplier of defence equipment to India, with around $12 billion worth of purchase history over the last decade.
“Israel is one of the first country which is implementing the ‘Make In India’ vision. There are already plans for joint ventures for making for India by Israeli company with the support of the Israeli government,” he said.
Rivlin will arrive in Delhi on November 15 – the start of his six-day visit which will also see him travelling to Agra, Karnal, Chandigarh and Mumbai. “We are in the final stages of finalising agreement on water, energy, agriculture research and development and education,” Carmon said.
The Israeli president will visit a water treatment plan Aqwise in Agra, Indo-Israel Agricultural Project’s Centre of Excellence in Karnal and Agro Tech 2016 in Chandigarh.
In Mumbai, he will take part in the commemoration ceremony at Chabad House and Taj Mahal hotel for the victims of the 26/11 terror attacks.
When asked about the possibility of Prime Minister Modi travelling to Israel, Carmon said, “A visit by Prime Minister Modi will happen for sure. It is for the Indian and Israeli government to decide the dates”.
Last month, after the surgical strikes, Modi had compared it to Israel’s self-defence posture. “Today the entire nation is talking of the valour of our army. Earlier, we used to hear of Israel having done something like this. But the country has seen that the Indian army is no less than anyone else,” Modi said at a rally in Himachal Pradesh.
However, Carmon preferred to be diplomatic when asked about Modi’s praise for Israel.
“We have heard and read what the PM had spoken. I don’t think we need to respond to that… I took one thing from what he said besides the statement that he did say that Israel did what it did in all those years out of necessity. Israel, unfortunately, experienced many terrorist acts which endanger the well-being of our population. Yes, we have developed and [are] glad that we have developed the technology to safeguard our citizens and population,” he said.
Carmon claimed that there was a broader view to these remarks. “In the same way, out of the challenges that we have in our country, of developing a new country from scratch, we have out of necessity and geopolitical surroundings developed technological advancements…. The main idea of India and Israel [ties] is sharing of the experience that each country has which makes this relationship so special and unique.”