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Sunday November 17, 2019

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Exclusive Interview with His Excellency Daniel Carmon Ambassador of Israel to India

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India and Israel are dynamic democracies and have enjoyed warm and cordial relations founded on shared values, common interests and challenges. In an exclusive interview with DSA His Excellency Daniel Carmon shares his views and his vision for Indo-Israeli bilateral relations. We wish to put on record our appreciation that His Excellency just a day after presenting his credentials to the President of India spared time for team DSA.

Defence and Security Alert: India established official relations with Israel in 1992, although informal ties had existed since much earlier. Please encapsulate for our readers the genesis and evolution of our cordial and mutually rewarding bilateral ties to their present status of strategic relationship.
Daniel Carmon: For Israeli diplomats, India is one of the most interesting as well as important places to serve our country. Diplomacy is about creating options and since the relations were officially formed, we have been creating more and more options for the development and growth of these relations. Israel’s relations with India are founded on shared values, joint interests and common challenges. We understand that in order to meet these common challenges, we have to work together and join hands. These relations became full diplomatic ones during the time of PM Narasimha Rao 22 years ago. Since then, they have grown consistently and rapidly across the board and became multilayered and deep. Today, the bilateral relations are an example of a combination of classic diplomacy and bringing almost on a daily basis tangible results with real and substantial implications on the lives of many Israelis and Indians in fields such as defence, agriculture, R&D, water and education.

DSA: Over the years, Israel has earned the sobriquet of a reliable partner which has been acknowledged by the present government and India is now the largest customer of Israeli military equipment accounting for almost 50 per cent of military sales. What have been the highlights and turning points of this eventful journey?
Daniel Carmon: Throughout the years we have witnessed a steady growth in every field of cooperation, including defence. We have similar challenges and they are only becoming bigger and more complex. It is essential that we work together to overcome these challenges. The two defence establishments are working together for a long period and are familiar with each other. We have great appreciation to the capabilities, experience and dedication of our Indian counterparts. This is an equal partnership that both sides have much to gain from. In every field, but especially in defence, we see our joint work as a two-way-street that both sides have a lot to learn from each other. This cooperation is transforming into a real partnership. We face very similar problems, we think of solutions together, we plan how we can implement those solutions and even produce them jointly. We are also forthcoming with sharing the technology that we have. Therefore, we can expect a continuation of increase in cooperation in defence in the years to come.

DSA: Non-military cooperation and bilateral trade between India and Israel is not expanding fast enough as per the potential. What measures do you propose to accelerate cooperation in other areas of mutual interest?
Daniel Carmon: The bilateral trade today includes many different indispensable fields such as agriculture, dairy, water technologies, IT and many more. We also deal with other fields that bear fruits to both sides such as tourism, academia and development. These are strong foundations to base our economic and commercial relations on. Our bilateral trade grew from US$ 180 million in 1992 to over US$ 5 billion 20 years later. This is an impressive increase but now we need to find a new tool that would enable us to take the bilateral trade to the next level and focus it on things both of us do best. We have been in negotiations on FTA for a while now and we have no doubt that this could bring a new chapter in the relations of the two countries. Some experts say it can double or even treble the volume of trade within a few years but more than that, it can intensify the cooperation between companies and individuals on both sides and bring about more flow of qualified workforce between the countries. Both countries are leading forces in IT in international markets. No one has any doubt that this will benefit immensely both Indians and Israelis and will allow both of us to compete better in the international markets. We look at these relations as relations that are constantly going through a process of evolution and growth. We look at long-term processes across the board – from security to food security, from tourism to technology. A Free Trade Agreement can affect all.

DSA: India and Israel share many geopolitical and geostrategic challenges. What are the contours of our bilateral cooperation to secure our borders and homeland security?
Daniel Carmon: Last February, we signed bilateral agreements in Homeland Security and counterterrorism in order to create a framework for both countries to work together. It will provide us an important and useful tool to save lives of Israelis and Indians. Terror and state sponsored terrorism are a global danger to us all. It can affect each and every aspect of our lives and livelihood as it has struck Indians and Israelis more than once. This terror is born out of extreme ideology that is targeting others who do not share the same perception. There is not much difference between the terror Israelis are facing in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv to what Indians suffer in Mumbai or in Iraq or anywhere else. What we do know is that the problem is similar so we should think of the solution together and fight against terror together. That will be the best way to overcome this challenge not just for India or Israel but for any other peace seeking country. Like in any other fields, we hope to have an equal and full partnership with our very capable Indian counterparts.

DSA: Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has expressed his desire to deepen and develop ties with Israel in his communication with PM Netanyahu. What has been your PM’s response and what direction do you think our bilateral relations can take?
Daniel Carmon: Our relations are a continuous effort as a long and continuous chain of successes. There are no magic tricks or short cuts in building this solid relationship. The leadership in both sides is the one that is setting the course of these relations and the direction that we are going. It is essential for our leaders to meet and visit each other even more in order to further cement bilateral cooperation. The leadership in both sides have always focused on substantial issues. One example of it you can find in the exchange of letters from 1951 between our PM David Ben Gurion and the Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru in which they discussed subjects such as food security. Given the past, we have no doubt that with the new Indian government both countries will continue to work closely together to fully realise the potential of these relations in fields such as water, food security, conservation and energy. With PM Modi we have a long successful experience of joint work on complex projects, including in fields such as water and agriculture. He himself had visited Israel in 2006 and is familiar with Israeli capabilities. Our Prime Ministers had talked several times in the last few months to see how we can deepen these relations. We have always known how to combine our unique capabilities in both sides in order to face joint challenges, a combination that is being reflected through tangible results for the benefit of the citizens of both countries. We have proven to be a reliable partner of India and I have no doubt that high level dialogues will be enhanced in order to facilitate this partnership.

DSA: As head of MASHAV, you are in the best position to spell out the avenues that India and Israel can explore to scale new heights in bilateral cooperation and further diversify and strengthen our strategic relationship. Your comments please.
Daniel Carmon: The agriculture cooperation between Israel and India is unprecedented. It is the biggest agriculture project in which the Government of Israel is involved anywhere in the world and is done through MASHAV – Israel’s International Development Cooperation Agency. The Indo-Israel Agriculture Cooperation touches the lives and livelihood of millions of Indians and Israelis. The current work plan in which we are working on in 9 states together with the NHM, has proved itself to bring real increase in the productivity of many Indian farmers. In some places you see an increase of 5 times more produce in the same place using Israeli technology adapted to the Indian needs. In other places you see the rejuvenation of old mango trees that bring sweeter, bigger fruits and higher quantity of produce after using the methods developed by the Indian and Israeli farmers. The key here is the joint work and collaboration. It’s not enough to bring proven Israeli technology and knowledge. We have to adapt it to the requirements and needs of the Indian states and farmers and this is being done by both Indian and Israeli experts. Discussing the new work plan to begin in 2015, a process that began a short while back, is not merely a technical issue but it is an important step for creating the long-term vision of how and where we want this cooperation to lead us. Our success had proven we can even extend further this cooperation and focus on water facilities and water recycling as well as dairy industry.

DSA: Global Jihad and terrorism are spreading their tentacles all over the world. What bilateral and multilateral strategies and mechanisms have India and Israel devised to counter and contain these scourges which are disturbing world peace and security?
Daniel Carmon: Israel and India, like many other democracies, are facing terror threats by terror organisations with extreme ideology. In recent years and especially since June 12th, my country is facing continuous rocket attacks by the Hamas terrorist organisation that unlawfully rules the Gaza strip. 18,000 of those rockets were fired by Hamas and other terror organisations since Israel unilaterally left Gaza in 2005. After three weeks of Israeli restraint, when Hamas further escalated the intensity of rocket attacks, Israel was left with no choice than to respond, as any country would do. Israel’s goal is to stop the rocket fire at its civilian population and neutralise the terror tunnels that threaten Israeli communities. India and Israel’s agreement of cooperation in Homeland Security and Counterterrorism is one of these indispensable tools to jointly fight against terrorism. The important issue to understand that terror can take various forms and shapes but it still derives and based on extreme ideology that is targeting others that do not share the same perception. The best way to confront terror by extreme radical organisation such as Hamas, ISIS, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda and LeT, is to join hands.

DSA: What is your message for the people of India and DSA readers around the world?
Daniel Carmon: The relations between any two countries, especially Israel and India, are built as layers, one on top of another in a long process of crafting and shaping those relations over time. It is based on common values, challenges and interests. We are both ancient civilisations that go back thousands of years. Our two nations are democracies that promote freedom of speech, encourage innovation and entrepreneurship and from a very early age insert in their people the desire to grow, evolve, always be better and achieve more. Our joint achievements are already remarkable and we believe that with Prime Minister Modi and his government there is room for further enhancement of these relations in every field.


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