Daniel Carmon became the new ambassador from Israel to India just this month. He assumes charge when India has been sharpening its focus on both homeland security and counter-terrorism – thanks to developments in the Kashmir valley as well as the emergence of new modules which seek to launch terrorist operations in India. dna became the first media organisation with which he shared his views. In a freewheeling interview with RN Bhaskar, he outlines the areas of interest for his country, and his perceptions regarding India-Israel relations.
Given below are edited excerpts.
How would you look at the present environment for improving India-Israel relations?
I am new to India. I therefore lack a perspective. Hence I cannot talk about what happened earlier. But being here, I – along with your government -- have to believe that there is an opportunity for both of us.
We are not just an economic embassy. I would prefer to define the Israeli embassy by looking at all that it has to offer. There are many pieces, and each piece is a puzzle. But each piece is crucial to the whole picture. Business is one of the pieces, and in business we are talking of G2G [government to government], G2B [government to business, and B2B [business to business].
In business we look forward to a free trade agreement with India. The seventh meeting has just taken place and all of them have been proceeding in the right direction. But the goal (of FTA) has yet to be reached.
How do you see India?
For us, India is a top priority country. And we think Israel is extremely important for India as well. This is because of what both can bring to the table compared to other countries.
Some of the areas – outside of defence and security – are agriculture, food security and energy.
Can you mention what you have been doing in agriculture?
In India we have the biggest agriculture related projects that Israel has anywhere in the world. We have various projects with your ministry of agriculture, especially with the National Horticulture Mission. We are partners on the ground. And with many of your states. Earlier we had eight state partners, now it is ten. And we hope to have more such partnerships.
We look at water as well.
Are you happy with the growth in business between the two countries?
We look at how we were just $200,000 worth of business in 1992 and are $6 billion today. And much of this relates to diamonds, energy and water. Some Israeli companies are already present in India and some more want to be here. Our job is only to tie the knots.
Can you talk about your role in security related issues?
These relationships are less commercial in nature. And they relate to homeland security and counter-terrorism. I cannot go into the details but can say that both countries have their own challenges and entities for engagement.
But one thing we are definitely happy about is the agreement we signed with your government on homeland security and counter-terrorism in February 2013, which can now allow us to cooperate and share experiences in order to make life more secure. The agreement allows us to discuss such relationships with Indian states as well, because we now have an umbrella agreement in place.
Both India and Israel live in very complicated regions, and both still find the time and space to strengthen our relations as friends.