Economic Times, India
FTA will bolster India-Israel trade: Envoy
7 December 2011
IANS/NEW DELHI: Bilateral trade between India and Israel is likely to grow to $15 billion from the present $5 billion if the two sides agree to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Israeli Ambassador to India Alon Ushpiz said here Wednesday.
Speaking at the 11th Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA)-Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) Track-II Dialogue, Ushpiz said three rounds of FTA talks have been held till now.
Providing details of the Indo-Israeli bilateral relations, he observed that differences of opinion on some issues have not affected the ties.
Earlier, in his key note address, Chinmaya R. Gharekhan, a former prime minister’s special envoy on West Asia and the Middle East Peace Process (MEPP), emphasised that there is strong public support among the Indian public for the Palestinian cause, but India-Israel relations, based on mutual benefit, are growing satisfactorily.
Israel is in the process of setting up seven centres of excellence in Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, which will facilitate the transfer of cutting edge agricultural technologies to Indian farmers, an IDSA release said.
Tourism is also a growing aspect of bilateral relationship. Last year, nearly 40,000 Indians visited Israel. India has been a favourite tourist destination, especially for Israeli youth. In 2010, nearly 50,000 Israeli tourists had come to India.
During 2002-07, India bought $5 billion worth of defence equipment from Israel, whose investments in India have grown to $3 billion, it said.
The two sides had detailed exchange of views on the future of the Arab Spring, the rise of Islamist parties, the Middle East peace process, Iranian nuclear programme and the US policy.
Israeli experts expressed deep concern about Iran’s nuclear programme and its implications for stability in the Middle East. They also discussed the shifting global balance of power, including the rise of China.
"West Asia and South Asia are two of the most dynamic sub-regions of the world. They are in the midst of tumultuous changes, which will have great implications for the countries of the region and the world in general. India and Israel are two dynamic, multi-cultural democracies facing similar kinds of threats at either end of the arc stretching across West Asia," they said.
After the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1992, bilateral trade has grown to about $5 billion annually (non-defence civilian trade).
With the proposed FTA in the pipeline, this is expected to more than double in the near future. Total defence trade is worth more than $9 billion.
There are vibrant people-to-people interactions, strategic dialogues between the security forces and strategic establishments, among other on-going exchanges between the two countries. Cooperation in science and technology, agriculture, space cooperation among other sectors is also robust, according to the IDSA release.