Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council

Israeli technology in India

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As Colin Rubenstein noted in his recent article "Asia ahead in courting hi-tech Israel", one of Israel's most important economic relationships is with India and this continues to grow, with trade now around US$5 billion annually (excluding defence, which is reportedly very substantial). Furthermore, Jerusalem and New Delhi are currently negotiating a free trade agreement that is expected to lift trade to US$15 billion. But such cooperation is not confined to trade - Israeli technology is also assisting India's development in areas of food supply, clean water and training.

For example, Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation ‘Mashav' is setting up 28 centres of excellence in ten Indian states over the next three years to diversify its fruit and vegetable crops, raise yield and increase milk output. As Daniel Carmon, head of Mashav said in a recent article in the Hindu Times:

"We are providing technologies and know-how. Our focus is on training the trainers... We congratulate India on being self-sufficient in food. Feeding 1.2 billion people is not an easy task. But with improvement in technology, a lot more can be achieved."

The Israeli invention of drip irrigation, also known as ‘micro-irrigation' has "changed the face of Indian agriculture" according to Amnon Ofen, Director of a joint Israeli-Indian company NaanDanJain, which established a test farm for drip irrigation in India. Micro-irrigation saves water and fertiliser by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants through a network of valves, pipes, tubing and emitters. According to Ofen, "The irrigation business in India these days is above $0.5 billion a year, which in the next two or three years, will reach $1.5 billion - just micro irrigation".

Israeli technology is also helping India clean up the Ganges River, a vitally important waterway which has become contaminated by fecal waste, semi-cremated bodies, and water-borne disease. Israel NewTech, an initiative led by the Israeli Ministry of Industry, Trade and Labour, is matching Israeli clean-tech companies with Indian partners to tender solutions for the Ganges.

Israel has incredible know how regarding water technology with 92% of Israel's waste water being treated and three quarters of that re-used for agriculture, according to figures by Israel's national water company Mekorot. This has led the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) to sign a declaration on its intention to cooperate with Israel on water management. Mr Rajiv Jalota, Additional Municipal Commissioner, Mumbai, said, "MCGM faces the herculean task of supplying safe and secure water to Mumbai. We are very keen to explore the possibility of using advanced Israeli technologies to improve the quality of our service."

Meanwhile, there is another type of technology, which Israel is becoming famous for in India - ‘volunteer technology.' Joshua Victor, a social worker and activist, believes that the system of voluntarism in Israel exemplified by organisations such as the Jewish Agency could be crucial to lifting India's population out of poverty. As the Times of Israel noted:

"In a big country like India, there's only so much the government can do - especially in the countryside, where communications and infrastructure are shaky at best, and poverty is rife. Corporations aren't likely to ‘volunteer' to help out either, because there's little money to be made. Meanwhile, rural farmers are left to deal with their pressing problems - lack of potable water, difficulties in fighting pests, and so on - alone. It's a pattern that is endemic not only to farmers, but throughout India's large underclass."

Victor, inspired by his experience as volunteer on an Israeli kibbutz, believes that voluntarism is the answer and he has set up the ‘India-Israel Initiative', in order to organise groups of Israeli volunteers to help Indian activists and educators in a variety of areas including agricultural technology, informal education, micro-finance, youth at risk and geriatric care. Victor explained, "It would be sort of an Israeli Peace Corps, with Israel sharing its advanced technology and skills with a population that really needs the help".

Victor also believes that cooperation between Israel and India is natural because the two nations have much in common:

"We achieved independence the same year, from the same colonial masters, and we have common problems on our borders, the implacable enemies that seek our mutual destruction. We have the same basic cultural features as well. There is every reason in the world for our countries to work together."

Meanwhile, Australia's own Indian community is also taking notice of the growing ties between India and Israel. The Indian Herald, a community new magazine for Indian Australians and others interested in Australia-India relations, has just published a cover story on Australia's new Ambassador to Israel, Dave Sharma, an Australian of Indian dissent.

"Up until now, Foreign Service used to be an area which did not see many Indian migrants. Enter Devanand Sharma who has been appointed as the Australian Ambassador to Israel recently by Foreign Minister Bob Carr. Dave Sharma is of Indian Heritage and his high profile appointment is something that has made Australian Indians something to be proud of. At 37 years, Devanand Sharma or Dave Sharma for short, has also made history by becoming Australia's youngest Ambassador. Dave Sharma is the second Australian Indians who have been (sic) appointed as an Ambassador for Australia, the other being Peter Varghese who was appointed as Australian Ambassador to India."

Mr Sharma told the Indian Herald, "This is a high profile posting as Israel is such an important part of the world for us. We also have a big Jewish community in Australia and have taken a close interest in this relationship."

AIJAC wishes Mr Sharma and his family all the best for their time in Israel.

Sharyn Mittelman


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