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India, Israel for FTA

Asian Age, India

India, Israel for FTA

By Parwez Hafeez, Kolkata

3 July 2008

New Delhi and Tel Aviv are seriously working on a free trade agreement because both realise that it is in their mutual interest, the Israeli ambassador, Mr Mark Sofe, said on Thursday.

"Formal negotiations have not yet started and I agree that complicated issues are involved but I believe that a free trade agreement between the two countries will be in place in the not so distant future," he added.

Mr Sofer was speaking at the conclusion of his maiden visit to the city, with the honorary consul of Israel in Kolkata, Harshvardhan Neotia by his side

Stating that the present bilateral trade was $ 3 billion, the Israeli ambassador said that according to the estimate of some international experts, the trade would triple in the next four years. Recalling that New Delhi and Tel Aviv did not even have diplomatic relations for over 40 years, the Israeli ambassador said that there was a time when the Indian passport mentioned that it was valid for all countries except Israel.

"But the kind of progress we have made in strengthening out bilateral social, economic, cultural and trade relations it can be described as a metamorphosis," Mr Sofer added.

Citing Ravindranath Tagore, Mr Sofer said that the depth of friendship was not dependent on the length of acquaintance.