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      From space to trade, Israel warms up to India

      Posted AtNewKerala.com

      A trade centre in Mumbai, an economic cooperation pact and a joint satellite launch project are among the action plans Israel has drawn up to push economic ties with India, Israeli Ambassador David Danieli has said.

      Israel has also identified information technology, life sciences, biotechnology, nanotechnology and pharmaceuticals as fields where India and Israel will stand to mutually gain in some of the cutting-edge areas in this millennium, the envoy to India said.

      "We have not lost sight of the fact that India is one of the fastest growing economies. In forging closer ties, we are aiming at benefits accruing to both India and Israel," Danieli said in a detailed interaction with senior editors of IANS here.

      The ambassador said the trade centre to be set up soon in India's financial capital to facilitate investment ties between Indian and Israeli companies will be Israel's third after similar offices in Moscow and Amsterdam.

      "We reopened our consulate in Mumbai this year, keeping in mind the importance the city enjoys as India's commercial hub. And we are now in advanced stages of setting up a trade centre there keeping this in mind," he said.

      Danieli said India and Israel have also signed a pact to establish an industrial research and development fund with $1 million that will extend loans to private sector research initiatives to the extent of 50 percent of the project cost.

      "We see it as a badge of honour to our capabilities and the prospects of India-Israel industrial and technological cooperation," he said, adding work was on to set up systems like selection committees and these would be up and running by 2006.

      "The idea is to recover loans by way of royalties a project will generate over, say, 25 years after an innovation is commercialised. I am happy your science and technology minister (Kapil Sibal) wants to make it a $25 million fund."

      On the proposed comprehensive economic cooperation agreement, the ambassador explained that the two sides had set up a joint study group, which has met twice in recent months - once in New Delhi and once in Tel Aviv.

      "We are now looking forward to Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath's visit to Israel before the end of this year. We expect that the broad outline of the agreement will be spelt out during Minister Nath's visit," he added.

      The proposed agreement will not only cover areas like free trade and investment protection but also look at customs cooperation, trade facilitation, services and common certification so that bilateral trade and investment can be enhanced.

      "We are aiming at $5 billion economic trade with India by 2008 - excluding the defence trade - from $2.5 billion expected this year. Israel is India's number one export destination, per capita," he said.

      In the area of space, Danieli said the agreement on science and technology the two countries entered into recently covers this area as well, adding space was a major source for scientific association between them.

      "There is a pledge regarding the launching of an Israeli telescope on board an Indian satellite in 2006. This will be a major scientific project, involving the two countries," he added.

      On tourism, the ambassador said Israelis were very enthusiastic travellers and some 700,000 of them - which is one-tenth of the country's population - visit at least one international destination every year.

      "The numbers of Israelis coming to India are increasing. On the basis of visas issued in Israel - and Israelis coming from other countries like Thailand or Nepal - we estimate that 30,000 Israelis travel to India every year," he said.

      "We Israelis find that India is beautiful country. There are wonderful places to see - from tropical areas in the south to the Himalayas in the north. So it is a combination of pluses of geography, culture and food that is getting us here."

      September 12, 2005


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