Trade between India and Israel has increased from $5 billion before the COVID pandemic to about $7.5 billion now, Israeli envoy Naor Gilon said on Thursday, terming it "very encouraging" for both nations.
The ambassador of Israel to India said a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries, negotiations for which have been going on for over a decade, got a push after the visit of External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to his country in 2021.
"However, I believe that even without an FTA, our trade is doing wonders. Since, before the Covid pandemic to last year, we increased our trade by 50% from $5 billion to about $7.5 billion, which is very encouraging, and I believe this trend in increasing trade will continue," Mr. Gilon told PTI.
Asked if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit India, he said given the busy schedules of Netanyahu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a mutually convenient time would be fixed for a visit.
Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday had spoken with Netanyahu and discussed ways to further strengthen the India-Israel friendship.
Asked if the recent allegations against the Adani group could have an impact on the development of the strategic Israeli port of Haifa, the envoy said, "(Gautam) Adani is a very strong player in the world's port system. That is his core business. We believe that he will make this port stronger. He has paid all the money for the port." Shares of Adani group companies witnessed massive sell-offs after a US-based short-seller firm Hindenburg Research made a litany of allegations, including fraudulent transactions and share price manipulation, against the group. The conglomerate has denied the allegations.
"The port is his (Adani). I believe the company has an interest in making this port successful, that is the hope of Israel and the interest of Israel, and that is in the interest of the Adani group as well. I believe that this port is going to be a flourishing port in the Mediterranean," Mr. Gilon said.
A consortium of Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ) and Israel's Gadot Group won the tender in July last year to privatise the Port of Haifa for $1.18 billion.
On January 31, the Adani Group acquired the port. Its chairman Gautam Adani had appeared alongside Prime Minister Netanyahu for signing of the deal to takeover the port.
On the long-pending FTA between Israel and India, the ambassador said negotiations have been going on for over a decade and there has been a push for it since the visit of External Affairs Minister Jaishankar to Israel a year and a half ago.
"Both countries are doing many many FTAs in parallel, so I hope the visit of Prime Minister Netanyahu here in India and a push by both the prime ministers... on our systems to go forward on achieving the FTA would help us. However, I believe that even without FTA, our trade is doing wonders," Mr. Gilon said.
On the spotting of a Chinese balloon over the U.S. and whether Israel would offer technology to tackle such incidents, the ambassador said India and Israel share technology and knowledge to tackle challenges in the field of defence and security.
The U.S. claimed on Wednesday that the Chinese balloon that was brought down from the skies above the coast of South Carolina on Saturday, was a component of a comprehensive programme that China has been executing for "several years" now, involving an extensive fleet of such airships. China has denied the allegations.