FTA talks back on track as Jaishankar, Israeli counterpart meet

Israel accepts travel for Indians with Covishield jab

Updated - October 19, 2021 06:30 am IST

Published - October 18, 2021 09:33 pm IST - NEW DELHI

External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar with Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel Yair Lapid on Monday. Photo: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar with Foreign Affairs Minister of Israel Yair Lapid on Monday. Photo: Twitter/@DrSJaishankar

India and Israel agreed to resume long-pending negotiations on a free trade agreement , as External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar met his Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid in Jerusalem on Monday. Both leaders also joined a virtual quadrilateral meeting with Mr. Lapid, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and United Arab Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed. 

The quadrilateral meeting, seen as an outcome of last year’s Abraham Accords brokered by the U.S. that saw the UAE and Israel establish diplomatic relations, also underlines India’s close relationships with both the West Asian countries and Washington.

Also read: India and the Abraham Accords

Welcoming Mr. Jaishankar, Mr. Lapid said in a tweet, “In the last year, India and Israel have dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, and have helped one another amidst this crisis. This is how friends and partners behave.”

Jaishankar sees new phase

During the bilateral talks, Mr. Jaishankar, who was meeting the recently installed Israeli government for the first time, said he was confident that the India-Israel relationship, which would enter its 30th year, would “shift gears into a new phase”.

He stated, “I am therefore, particularly pleased that just as we came to this visit, our officials have agreed on the resumption of the India-Israel Free Trade negotiations.” The FTA talks would begin in November and concluded by June 2022, he added.

Also read: Jaishankar hails manifold contribution of Indian Jewish community to Indo-Israel ties

The push for an FTA between the two countries is the latest in a series of attempts to negotiate a trade agreement over the past 14 years. Both in 2007, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and in 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that an FTA would be completed, but talks have lapsed over a number of issues, including Israel’s reluctance to include an agreement on services in trade, and India’s insistence on it.

During the last round of talks, both sides explored the possibility of a limited trade deal or a Preferential Trade Agreement for about 200 goods, which had also not been concluded. The latest effort for an FTA with Israel comes on the back of the government’s recent drive to resume a number of trade negotiations, and the government has thus far committed to resumed talks with the U.K., Australia and the European Union, expressing the hope they would also be concluded in 2022.

Also read: India, UAE and Israel’s trilateral trade could reach $110 billion by 2030: Top diplomats

During the talks, India and Israel also agreed to mutually recognise each other’s vaccination process “in principle”, although for the moment Israel will only allow Indians vaccinated with Covishield to travel there, but not those vaccinated with Covaxin, which is still awaiting an Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) from the World Health Organisation.

Israel joining ISA

Mr. Jaishankar said it was a “great pleasure” that Israel also announced it would join the India-France led International Solar Alliance (ISA), ahead of the next U.N. Climate Change COP26 summit in Glasgow this November.

“I think Israel brings a lot of value to the table. And as we approach COP 26, it’s very important to know about our growing agenda- Green growth, Green economy is given its new place,” Mr. Jaishankar pointed out, referring to their talks on climate change and cooperation on technology to mitigate its effects.

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