Modi Means Business

A lot has been written about Prime Ministers Netanyahu and Modi’s ‘hug diplomacy.’ Both PM Netanyahu and President Rivlin displayed personal affection that went beyond the usual diplomatic exchange and even broke protocol while welcoming the visiting Indian leader. “The personal chemistry and the warmth between Modi and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was apparent in their remarks and their hugs.” wrote Indian financial newspaper Economic Times.

If Israeli leaders played the perfect host during the last week’s visit, Premier Modi showed his gratitude and affection in equal measure. “The President of Israel welcomed me so warmly, he broke protocol. This is a mark of respect for the people of India,” Indian Prime Minister tweeted.

But to focus too much on the optics might miss the substance of this historic visit. The visit was not only historic for the incidental fact that PM Modi became the first ever Indian premier to visit the Jewish state, but for the groundwork this visit laid for the future mutual ties.

“Red carpet welcome done, PM Narendra Modi gets down to business in Israel today,” noted the Indian news channel NDTV.

India and Israel signed a series of agreements aimed at boosting bilateral cooperation in the fields of agriculture, water conservation, technology and space. Both countries established an Innovation Fund with the seed money of $40 million to promote research in manufacturing and industrial technology.

“We have announced strategic partnerships in water and agriculture. Israel has a global reputation in water conservation, desalination and waste water management,” India’s Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar told the reporters. “From Startup India to Make In India, Israel is a great fit. Israel is a country with very strong R&D [research and development] and technology, backed up by entrepreneurship,” he added.

The visiting Foreign Secretary was referring to the two major initiatives launched by the Indian Prime Minister to promote high-tech innovation and to build up country’s manufacturing base.

Israel Aerospace Industries and Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems are among the leading global defense firms backing PM Modi’s Make in India initiative — teaming up with local public and private sectors companies, and setting up manufacturing units in India.

However, the most promising partnership appears to be in the field of start-ups and technology cooperation.

Indian newspaper Goan Times talked about “building a hi-tech triangle” between Bangalore, Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley”:

The visit may also prove to be a catalyst for building a hi-tech triangle among Bangalore, Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley in future. Reason: While Indians and Israelis have proven themselves in Bangalore and Tel Aviv respectively, they also dominate the Silicon Valley in the US. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu emphasised this in his speech on Wednesday, saying the two most spoken languages in the Silicon Valley are Hindi and Hebrew. The third is native English, he said.

Technology partnership with Israel for the future was also one of the top agenda of PM Modi’s visit to Tel Aviv. Both countries have already signed seven big MoUs in this regard. What is more interesting is the fact that some Indian-American entrepreneurs are trying to build a “robust triangle” to connect the three tech hot spots of the world — Bangalore, Tel Aviv and Silicon Valley.

This isn’t just wishful thinking. There are some solid figures to back it up.

India-Israel partnership in start-up has a revenue potential of $25 billion, projects the global consultancy firm Accenture. A report released last week by Accenture and NASSCOM, the association of Indian IT companies, claims that “a cumulative cross-border investment of USD 25 billion into Indian and Israeli start-ups by 2025 can create 25 world-class products across different sectors, unleashing a revenue potential of up to USD 25 billion from these products by 2025.”

“We are of one view that together our scientists and researchers would develop, build and implement mutually beneficial solutions,” said PM Modi during his visit to Israel. This is a hope he shares with the millions of young women and men across India. If Cold War hostilities had pulled Israel-India apart, then innovation and technology are today bringing them together.


Vijeta Uniyal

Author is an Indian journalist based in Germany. In 2012 he founded "Indian For Israel", an Indian Diaspora initiative to combat antisemitism in Europe and foster stronger Israel-India ties. He graduated from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi and has worked for over 15 years in government and private sector. He is Senior Distinguished Fellow at New York-based Gatestone Institute.

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