The newly announced quadrilateral meeting between India-Israel-UAE-U.S. is a forum for economic cooperation for the moment, said I srael’s Deputy Chief of Mission Rony Yedidia-Clein , adding that more cooperation and high-level visits would follow as Israel and India mark 30 years of full diplomatic ties in 2022.
The big announcement after the bilateral meeting between External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Israel FM Yair Lapid was the decision to resume negotiations on the Free Trade Agreement. There have been several attempts to do this since 2007; where do the blocks to the agreement lie?
The struggle on both sides is on bureaucratic issues. Former Ambassador Ron Malka has gone from being Ambassador here to Director General at the Ministry of the Economy, and maybe he’ll be able to push things forward since he has a personal interest in India. I think his counterparts here on the Indian side will also have an interest in pushing things forward.
Will it be essentially an agreement on goods? Or will services be included in the FTA negotiations?
We will have to see how that’s resolved. Israel is more interested in seeing it purely on goods. We have to see how the negotiations work out. I think [the deadline in 2022] will put a little bit more pressure on the two sides to, you know, make it work.
Where did the idea for the India-Israel-UAE-U.S. quadrilateral come from and where is this headed?
We understand that Minister Lapid was in the United States, and he had talks with his counterparts there. And the UAE minister was also there at the time. So it came up in a conversation and they agreed on having some sort of a structure like that. Since India is such a close and important strategic partner and Dr. Jaishankar planned to visit the week after Mr. Lapid was in the U.S.
I think it holds a lot of promise. India has a very constructive relationship with the UAE, it has a wonderful relationship with Israel. I think it also has a very, very good relationship with the United States as well. So, why not bring everything together, for the good of the citizens of four countries? And especially speaking of economics, here, I mean, we’re talking about a very huge opportunities in trade and all the different fronts.
Does a quadrilateral like this also have a strategic purpose when it comes to West Asia?
I think right now we’re talking more about the economic opportunities here and less about the strategic ones.
The U.S. State Department spokesperson spoke about the quadrilateral being an area for economic and political coordination. Now UAE by its own admission already plays a role in mediating talks between India and Pakistan. Do you see a role for India in the Middle East [Israel-Palestine] peace process?
I wouldn't rule it out, but I don't know if there is any specific role right now.
Israel will participate at the Dubai Expo, where India has a pavilion as well. Will there be discussions on avenues for India-Israel-UAE trilateral cooperation, and in what fields?
Well, I think we can see [trilateral cooperation] in a number of different fields. We're talking about water, we're talking about agricultural opportunities, we're talking about health opportunities. The fact that India and Israel have neighbouring pavilions at Dubai at the Expo, and we already have joint events there with Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), will help to organise these events. So the opportunities are there, and we [will] leave it to the private sector to develop these.