2017 marked a historic year for Indo-Israel relations, marked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Israel (India’s first Prime Minister to visit Israel) and ever-growing bilateral cooperation between Israel and India in a number of fields.
Photo Credit: GPO/Avi Ohayon
While Israel and India established diplomatic ties in 1992, the Jewish and Indian people share a rich and deep relationship which dates back to ancient times. Jews were one of the first foreign groups in recorded history to arrive and settle in India and became an integral part of Indian society. Today, India boasts a vibrant Jewish community, which numbers close to 7,000, while Israel is home to 85,000 Jews of Indian origin. The warm ties between the Indian and Jewish people continue to enhance and influence the Indo-Israeli relationship today. As Israel and India celebrate 26 years of diplomatic relations, cooperation between the two countries has never been stronger. The following are just some of the many ways in which Israel and India are working together to promote a brighter and more prosperous future for all.
Innovation and Technology: Israel, which has the most startups per capita worldwide, and India which is the top innovation destination in Asia, are utilizing their innovative spirit and technological resources to find solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues.
“India and Israel are walking hand in hand into the future as partners. India is a growing economic powerhouse with a large market and talent pool. Israel is a world leader in high technology and innovation. From start-ups to space, communications to cybernetics, Israel’s technological capabilities are merging with India’s.”- Prime Ministers Netanyahu and Modi, joint op-ed, Israel Today and India Today
In 2017, a series of agreements were signed between Israel and India to strengthen innovation and technological ties between the two countries, including the India-Israel Industrial R&D and Technological Innovation Fund, a five-year, $40 million fund, which will be used to encourage partnerships between Israeli and Indian innovators. Israel and India also established the “India-Israel Innovation Bridge” a platform dedicated to bringing together Israeli and Indian entrepreneurs and startups to collaborate on a series of innovative projects related to water, agriculture, and health.
There has also been a substantial increase in commercial ties and business ventures between Indian and Israeli tech companies. Since 2015, a number of major Indian IT corporations such as Infosys, Wipro, and Tech Mahindra have made notable investments in Israeli tech companies. In 2017, OurCrowd, one of Israel’s leading equity crowdfunding platforms established an innovation incubator in Jerusalem, in partnership with Reliance Industries (one of India’s largest conglomerates) Motorola Solutions, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The incubator, which is the largest of its kind, will support the growth of startups in Jerusalem and encourage business cooperation between Israeli and Indian startups, venture capitalists, and tech companies.
Israel and India are further strengthening cooperation in technology and innovation through a series of joint academic and educations partnerships, which aim to bridge between Israel and India’s growing innovation and technology industries. In November of 2017, India’s Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) opened an Israel Centre on its campus, which will serve as a hub for research, business strategy, technological innovation, and academic collaboration between Israel and India. Upon the inauguration of the new center, Israel’s Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon noted, “Bengaluru is an ideal center for startups and this collaboration is an excellent idea. This center will bring together like-minded individuals in academic knowledge and research.”
In September of 2017, the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi hosted the “Start India” competition in conjunction with the Indian Government’s Department of Science & Technology (DST). The competition searched for India’s most promising startup to represent India in Israel’s biggest international startup competition, Start JLM. Start JLM brings entrepreneurs from 40 countries to Israel to participate in an all expenses boot camp for early stage startups. Indian startup Mimyk which focuses on virtual reality methods for training doctors in endoscopy procedures went on to compete in the Start JLM competition in November of 2017.
On the grassroots level, Indian and Israeli innovators continue to work together to solve a range of global issues. Programs like the Israel-India Hackathon are creating and enhancing ties between Israeli and Indian entrepreneurs, further expanding both the Israeli and Indian startup ecosystems. The hackathon, which was hosted by the Pears Program for Global Innovation at Tel Aviv University in July of 2017, brought more than 600 innovators developers, entrepreneurs, and health care professionals from Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and Tel Aviv together to create affordable tech solutions for millions of Indians without access to medical care. These kinds of projects have the potential to benefit millions around the globe.
Water and Agriculture: Israel, which has overcome extreme water crises since its founding and is a world leader in water, is in a unique position to help India purify and maximize its water supply which nourishes more than one billion people. During his visit to Israel, Indian Prime Minister Modi witnessed Israeli water purification methods firsthand at Haifa’s Olga Beach where ocean water was purified via a mobile water desalination unit. During this visit, Israel and India signed two major water agreements to increase cooperation in water conservation and state water utility reform in India. Under these agreements, Israeli technologies will be used to clean and purify the Ganges River, which provides water to more than a third of India’s population.
With more than 159.7 million of hectares of arable land in India and close to 500 Israeli companies dedicated to agro technologies, collaboration between Israel and India in agriculture is an important and strategic partnership for both countries. Since 2008, MASHAV (Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation) and India’s Ministry of Agriculture, have opened 20 Centers of Excellence across 9 Indian States in which Israeli experts train thousands of Indian farmers in groundbreaking Israeli methods such as drip irrigation. These methods are having a profound effect on India’s agriculture industry, significantly improving crop diversity and crop production across the country. In December of 2017, Israel and India inaugurated the first agro-technology development center in Tamil Nadu which will focus on floriculture. 7 additional Centers of Excellence are expected to open in the coming years, bringing the total number of centers in India to twenty-seven. Israel’s ambassador to India Daniel Carmon has highlighted agricultural cooperation between Israel and India as a cornerstone of the Indo-Israel relationship noting, “The success story of our agricultural cooperation is second to none, and it is only the beginning. We hope to see the same achievements in the fields of water, innovation and academia.”
Culture: From tourism, to music, to film and television, Indo-Israel cultural ties are reaching new heights and transcending borders, further strengthening the bonds of friendship between the Israeli and Indian people.
In December of 2017, a delegation of Bollywood actors, screenwriters and producers participated in a trip to Israel organized by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Culture. The delegation included Priyanka Mehrotra, a producer of the hit Indian television series P.O.W which was adapted from the Israeli series Hatufim (Prisoners of War), and won the prize for best direction for a fictional show at the 2017 Asian Television Awards. India and Israel are currently working on a co-production agreement, which will encourage and increase partnerships between the Israeli and Indian film industries.
Indian culture has penetrated Israel’s music industry, with a growing number of Israeli musicians such as Leora Isaac and Shay Ben Tzur who draw inspiration from Indian music. Isaac, one of Israel’s rising artists, is famous both in Israel and in India for her unique fusion of Indian sounds and instruments with Hebrew texts. Born in Israel to Indian immigrants, Isaac moved to India at the age of 15 to study Indian classical music at the Sur Sarvadhan Institute in Pune. Her music points to the warm and close friendship between the Indian and Israeli people, predicated on the mutual values and historical ties shared by the two nations.
Ahead of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to India on 14 January, Israel is proud to celebrate more than two decades of close cooperation with India and looks forward to continuing and enhancing the Indo-Israeli relationship to advance health, prosperity, and peace on a global scale.