CHENNAI: With high-level visits from both sides, Indo-Israel trade is expected to record a significant growth in the coming months and year. Against a 2005 bilateral trade of $2.4 billion, the target for 2008 has been set at $5 billion.
"Diamonds now account for two-thirds of our trade. We export raw diamonds and get back cut and polished diamonds from India. We have a huge diamond exchange," explains Israel's Consul-General in Mumbai Daniel Zohar Zonshine.
He says the recent visit by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Industry, Trade and Labour Eliyaho Yishay to India has provided a further impetus to trade and investment. A high-level business delegation with 35-40 top representatives accompanied the Deputy Premier to some States. Agriculture, water management, telecommunications, information technology, environment technologies, homeland security technologies, biotech and medical equipment were identified as key areas of collaboration.
The Consul-General said Israel had about the highest spending on R and D, with 4.6-4.7 per cent of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) going into this critical area. The Government itself committed 20 per cent of the roughly $ 6 billon spent on R and D. "We provide the right atmosphere and scientists for research, but we cannot manufacture it [product of research] at competitive rates. We can work with countries such as India to take this forward."
Answering a question, Mr. Zonshine said Israel had developed a niche for homeland security technology and shared it with many countries. Security software was a specialty in his country. It was now keen on not only the services sector but also real estate. At least 10 Israeli companies wanted to do business in India. An agreement to set up a 1,000-bed hospital, most likely in Kolkata, had also been signed. The IT industry was looking at Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore, among other centres.
As water management was critical in Israel, it had developed desalination processes, which were now being used elsewhere.
At least 16 desalination plants had been set up in India using the Israeli reverse osmosis technology.
In science, five specific sectors were identified for cooperation agro and biotechnology, space, water management, nanotechnology and alternative energy. Outside these sectors, there was growing security and defence cooperation.
Mr. Zonshine, who was in Chennai on Monday, said culture and cultural exchanges were other areas of cooperation and interaction. More cultural exchange programmes were being worked out.