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Israel & India Economic Ties: Growth & Potential

Currently, trade between the two countries is about $5 billion, but look for that figure to grow
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with Chief Minister of the Indian state of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis at PM Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem on April 29, 2015. (Photo credit: Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets with Chief Minister of the Indian state of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis at PM Netanyahu's office in Jerusalem on April 29, 2015. (Photo credit: Haim Zach/GPO)

Israel and India have only had full diplomatic relations since 1992, with trade at a modest $200 million in that year.

Now, 23 years later, total trade has skyrocketed to over $5 billion. By 2013, India was Israel’s 10th largest trade partner and Israel’s third largest trade partner in Asia.

There is growing interest in India in industries in which Israel is renowned as a world leader, including clean energy, bio and nano-technology, security, financial services and water technology, to name a few. The economic relationship continues to flourish, with ongoing agreements between the two countries including cooperation in the areas of agriculture, medicine, telecoms and even outer space. Experts believe that if the two countries can finalize ongoing negotiations over a free trade agreement, it could at least quadruple the current level of trade.

Several Israeli leaders have visited India in recent years, including Israel’s former Minister of Economy, Naftali Bennett, who led a high-ranking business delegation to the country in October, 2013, and former Israeli Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Dr. Uzi Landau, who visited India in February 2012. India’s Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, reciprocated with a visit to Israel in April of the same year. Daniel Carmon, Israel’s Ambassador to India, has called these high level visits “a natural ingredient of tightening relationships between Israel and India.”

One of the most notable areas of these growing relationships is in the field of agriculture.  As a sign of increased Indian interest in Israeli agricultural technology, several prominent Indian business delegations arrived in Israel recently for our annual Agritech conference and exhibition, which showcases the Startup Nation’s world-leading technological advances in farming and food security.

There is also plenty of cooperation on the ground, with Israeli experts creating programs in conjunction with Indian farmers to increase yield and reduce waste.  With ten India-Israel Centres of Excellence across India and around thirty more planned – it is clear that this partnership will continue to bear fruit.  A two year ‘agricultural action plan’ for sharing expertise created in 2008 was extended by seven years until 2015 due to its resounding success.

India has also been interested in Israel’s world-renowned innovative water technologies in areas such as efficient waste recycling and management, conservation and desalination. An official delegation from India at Israel’s biannual WATEC conference led to a joint Karnataka-Israel Industrial R&D programme for joint assistance and development in the field of water usage. Both countries agree there is much more to be done in this field.

Hi-tech trade is also growing as Indian firms seek out some of the cutting-edge, innovative technologies for which Israel has become world renowned.

In its first major investment in Israel, India’s Tata Group announced in April 2013 that it is investing $5 million in the Ramot Technology Transfer Center at Tel Aviv University. Indian tech giant Infosys recently acquired Israeli firm Panaya for a reported $200 million in one of the biggest tech deals between the two countries. India’s Tech Mahindra IT and Israel’s Comverse have partnered to set up an R&D center in Israel. The governments of both nations are in talks to establish a joint $40 million fund to promote cooperation between Indian and Israeli companies as well as technological development.

Conversely, many Israeli tech companies have established R&D centres in India to take advantage of the country’s highly skilled personnel including Check Point and Amdocs. Other companies such as Teva Phamaceuticals and drip irrigation leader Netafim are setting up manufacturing plants in India.

The Foreign Trade Administration in the Israeli Ministry of Economy has established a number of trade offices in India to help leverage these burgeoning trade relations, including one in Bangalore. Our other missions are in Mumbai and New-Delhi — making it our third largest trade delegation worldwide. Our government as a whole continues to work towards removing barriers to trade between the two countries and build better trade relations.

With India’s increasingly sophisticated market and Israel’s world renowned innovative economy, we expect that trade relations will only continue to grow in the coming years, to the benefit of both nations.

About the Author
Ohad Cohen, BA, MBA, heads the Foreign Trade Administration at the Israeli Ministry of Economy, where his responsibilities include the development and implementation of Israel’s foreign trade policy and managing Israel’s foreign commercial service, which includes 40 trade offices operating in more than 50 countries. From 2007 to 2012, Ohad served as the Commercial Attaché at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, where he was in charge of promoting and facilitating trade and investment between Israel and the United States, and to enhancing bilateral commercial relations. Ohad Cohen, who started his career at Zim Integrated Shipping Services, a large maritime container carrier, joined the Foreign Trade Administration in 1997, where he has since held increasingly senior positions.
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