Commercial and Economic Relations
From a base of US$ 200 million in 1992 (comprising primarily diamonds), the merchandise trade diversified and reached US $ 5.19 billion in 2011. However, owing to global economic recession, there was a decrease of 14.3% in bilateral trade in 2012 and the bilateral trade stood at US$ 4.44 billion (Jan-Dec), including trade in diamonds. The balance of trade was in Israel’s favour by US$ 573 million. India’s exports to Israel amounted to US$ 1.93 billion and India’s imports from Israel were worth US$ 2.50 billion. Bilateral trade during the nine-month period January-September 2013 was about US$ 3.24 billion.
In recent years, Israel has taken a decision to strengthen economic relations with China and India. In 2011, Israel announced a fund of NIS 100 million (around US$ 28 million) spread over a period of three years to cover expenses on relocation of employees to India (or China); hiring local consultants; and logistics for opening an office in the target country.
Free Trade Agreement
India proposed a Free Trade Agreement with Israel in 2010. The two sides continue their negotiations and the eighth round was held in Israel in November 2013.
Though the data does not seem to capture FDI flows from Israel to India that may be happening through Europe/USA, the FDI inflows from Israel to India are currently low. During April 2000-October 2012, Israel ranked 43rd with FDI into India of US$ 55.32 million. While official data about India’s investment in Israel is not available, significant investments from India in Israel include acquisition of Israeli drip-irrigation company Naandan by Jain Irrigation, Sun Pharma’s 66% stake in Taro Pharmaceuticals, Triveni Engineering Industries investment in Israeli Aqwise Company, and others. A consortium of India’s Cargo Motors Pvt. Ltd and Israel Ports Company won a US$ 700 million contract bid to build a deep water port at Nargol in Gujarat. In 2009, Israeli companies were acquired by Indias telecom companies Tejas Networks and Connectiva Systems. TCS started operations in Israel in 2005, and the State Bank of India opened a branch in Tel Aviv in 2007.
There is a growing interest from Israeli companies in doing business in other sectors. Israeli companies have invested in India in energy, renewable energy, telecom, real estate, water technologies, and are focusing on setting up R&D centers or production units in India.
India and Israel have a bilateral agreement for cooperation in agriculture. Under the bilateral Action Plan for 2012-2015, agriculture cooperation has been expanded to seven states including Haryana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Punjab. Nearly ten India-Israel Centers of Excellence for cooperation in agriculture have been set-up so far. Four more such centers are expected to be established in 2014-15.
India has benefited from Israeli expertise and technologies in horticulture mechanization, protected cultivation, orchard and canopy management, nursery management, micro- irrigation and post-harvest management particularly in Haryana and Maharashtra. Israeli drip irrigation technologies and products are widely used in India. Some Israeli companies and experts are providing expertise to manage and improve dairy farming in India through their expertise in high milk production of milk animals in hot climatic conditions and genetic engineering.
India imports critical defence technologies from Israel. There are regular exchanges between the armed forces. The last visit from the Indian side was that of Chief of Air Staff and Chairman of Chiefs of Staff Committee Air Chief Marshal N.A.K. Browne (January 2013).
Cooperation in Science & Technology
India-Israel cooperation S&T has evolved on two tracks. There is joint research by S&T institutions under S&T Cooperation Agreement signed in 1993. Secondly, under an MOU on Industrial Research and Development Initiative signed in 2005, a joint industrial R&D fund i4RD has been set up to promote bilatera lindustrial R&D and specific projects. Under i4RD mechanisms, joint projects by the industry are funded, involving at least one Indian and one Israeli company. Since the launch of this programme in 2006, seven projects have been approved. On May 7,2013 Karnataka State Council for Science and Technology and the Karnataka Science and Technology Promotion Society have signed an MoU with Israel’s MATIMOP, the Israeli Industry Center for R&D, for industrial R&D partnership.Through the program, industries may seek financial support through partner matching and funding for joint bilateral R&D projects, involving at least one small/medium scale company of Karnataka and one Israeli company.
Tata Industries and Ramot, Tel Aviv University (the Universitys technology transfer company) have entered into an MoU to fund and generate commercialization-ready technologies in a wide range of fields, including engineering, exact sciences, environment and clean technology, pharmaceuticals and healthcare. Under the MoU, Tata Industries will be the lead investor in Ramot’s US$ 20 million Technology Innovation Momentum Fund.
There is a regular exchange of high-level visits from both sides to enhance bilateral economic and commercial ties. Recent visits from Israeli side include visits by Minister of Energy & Water Resources, Uzi Landau (February 2012) and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labour Naftali Bennett (October 2013). From the Indian side,the recent visits include those by Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Shri Ashok Gehlot (April-May 2013) and Minister of Communications & Information Technology Shri Kapil Sibal (June 2013).
Culture and Education
India is known in Israel as an ancient nation with strong cultural traditions, and in popular Israeli perception, India is an attractive, alternative tourist destination. Israeli youth are particularly attracted to India. India is a destination of choice for over 38,000 Israelis who visit India every year for tourism and business. Over 40,000 Indians visited Israel in 2013, the largest number of tourists from an Asian country. There is an abiding interest in Indian culture, which is promoted through dance,music, traditional arts, crafts and cinema.
Several courses related to India are taught at Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University and Haifa University. India has signed an MoU with Tel Aviv University for a Chair for Indian studies in the Department of East and South East Asian Studies under which Indian Professors have been coming for a semester. Some private and public Indian universities have entered into agreements with Israeli universities forfaculty exchange under which Israeli professors spend a semester teaching in India.
In May 2013, India and Israel launched a new funding programme of joint academic research, the first round of which will focus on both exact sciences and humanities. Each government is contributing US$ 5 million annually for five years.The programme will provide support for nearly 50 collaborations providing up to US$ 300,000 for an experimental project or US$180,000 for a theoretical project for up to three years.
Since 2012, Israel offers post-doctoral scholarships to students from India and China in all fields over a period of three years with triennial grants of NIS 100,000. Although no quota is provided for participant countries, in 2013-14, 78 of the 100 fellowships awarded were to Indian students. The Government of Israel has also approved 250 summer scholarships (June to August 2013) for eight courses for Indian and Chinese students in prestigious Israeli universities like Technion (IIT Haifa), Tel Aviv University, Hebrew University and Ben Gurion University. India offers seven ICCR scholarships and Know India Scholarships to Israelis every year.