As India and Israel prepare for a Free Trade Agreement, Israel's envoy to India has expressed his country's desire "to share" technology and know-how for the success of New Delhi's flagship programme 'Make in India', but at the same time expressed concerns over violation of Intellectual Property norms.
Naor Gilon, Israel's Ambassador to India, said here on Wednesday that "we are all interested in 'Make in India' and we see an immense potential for cooperation with India".
Gilon, at an event at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that he got three serious complaints from Israeli companies about IP problems in India.
"And this is my only recommendation for India - you want to do 'Make in India' and I think two-three weeks ago during our Defence Minister's visit to India during the meeting with Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, all we talked about was 'Make in India'.
"We are all interested in 'Make in India' and we see an immense potential for cooperation with India," he said.
"The combination of Israeli technology and Indian technology and your capacity of manufacturing and your ability to do sales around the world in many more countries than we can do because you have much wider diplomatic relations around the world, especially in Muslim countries. The potential is huge. And Israel is very much looking forward to 'Make in India'.
"We are ready to share but I must say very clearly that this IP problem will be a problem," he said.
In an indirect reference to China, the Israeli diplomat warned: "you should not get the reputation of your neighbours".
"One has to maintain a solid reputation because 'Make in India' requires not only manufacturing but IPs. And if you want people to share their IPs, they have to feel confident... Our defence cooperation is in the most sensitive fields of intelligence gathering, a lot of things that we will not speak about here, and IP is also very important for the private sector," he emphasised.
Addressing a delegation of 85 entrepreneurs and investors from JITO Incubation and Innovation Foundation (JIFF), a part of the Jain International Trade Organisation, Gilon said that Israeli entrepreneurs, including Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, are very complimentary of Indian entrepreneurs and have shared with him how well Israelis and Indians get along together.
Urging the young Jain entrepreneurs to work together to mark the "beginning of a relationship," he talked about planning the next 30 years of Indo-Israel ties.
"I think Jainism and Judaism are very similar, at least in the way that we are two relatively small religions and we put an emphasis on education and strive for excellence and prosperity for its believers," the envoy stressed.
Asserting that the strategic partnership between India and Israel is not just in name, but also in content, Gilon credited Prime Minister Modi's historic visit to Israel in July 2017 as marking a big change in bilateral ties.
"The big change in our relationship happened in 2017 and this is with the visit of Prime Minister Modi to Israel which was a historic visit. By the way, there were other high-level visits, including the Presidential, but this was a very unique visit... our relationship was defined then as a strategic partnership.
"It is easy to give a name but the question is what is the content. I believe that this is a strategic partnership in reality and not only in name. This is very important. Today we cooperate in all fields, we are very transparent with each other and really cooperate in every field," the Israeli Ambassador emphasised.
Stressing upon the special bond between the people of the two countries, Gilon noted the warm welcome he received when he joined the embassy in New Delhi about nine months ago.
"I have served in seven countries as a diplomat... There is a different feeling when you come to India. There is popular support which is very strong towards Israel. This you don't find in the western world. In the US, you find enclaves, and islands, of great love and support for Israel but not something that is so widespread and it is a very special feeling for us.
"Europeans are generally surprised to see what progress has been made in Israel but that is not the case with Indians. Israel has a very positive image in general in India. So we cooperate in many fields and our task is to see how we take forward this relationship in the next 30 years. How do we continue the momentum and your visit are very important in this context," the envoy said.
In response to a question by the Head of the Jain delegation, Siddharth Jain, seeking a point of contact, Gilon said that the Israeli Commercial attaches and honorary consuls, besides the Heads of its three missions in New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru, would always be available to respond to the questions of Indian businessmen.
As India and Israel celebrate 30 years of establishment of diplomatic relations this year, the envoy noted that initially the relationship was based on two legs - cooperation in defence and agriculture, but it has changed dramatically over the years.
"We are working on the Free Trade Agreement... there are about ten thousand caregivers from India and now we are working on construction workers. We are working on different areas as to how we can cooperate. We are working on academic cooperation which I believe is very important," he said.
Acknowledging Israel's limitations in terms of size and capacity, he said it has only nine universities, which are also not all that big, but Indian students are about 1,000 strong in Israel and are the biggest non-Israeli student community in Israel.
"Most of them are in advanced courses because it is very hard to find undergraduate courses in English in Israel," he said.
Touching upon the much-publicised I2U2 summit which is to take place during US President Joe Biden's visit to Israel in mid-July, Gilon said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be attending it virtually, as would be the King of UAE, and hopefully "we would see some practical projects come out of it".
I2U2, dubbed the Middle Eastern Quad by some, is an economic grouping floated primarily by the US in what some political analysts see as a move to counter China's growing footprints in the region. While I2 stands for India and Israel, U2 stands for the UAE and the US.
The foreign ministers of the 'I2U2' had met virtually during the visit of the Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar to Israel in October last year.
Discussions had then centered around improving trade ties, cooperating in the region's maritime security, synergising efforts for global public health, and joint infrastructure projects focused on transportation and technology.
Gilon said that these smaller region-based groupings have emerged because large international organisations have proved themselves to be paralysed.
Describing the JITO-JIFF visit to Israel as "mesmerising", Siddharth Jain extended an offer to make his organisation a part of the Israeli innovation ecosystem.
"There was also a request that Israel has so many innovation authorities. Maybe JITO-JIFF can support us because we are so large... the JITO-JIFF Incubation Innovation Foundation accelerator, which has about 6000-7,000 square feet of office space in Mumbai, can also be a co-initiative with the Israel government and Israeli innovation authority, probably a nodal agency. We are very happy to boast you as a part of us and this relation can go from A to Z," Siddharth Jain said.
Narrating the overwhelming response from the JITO community to be a part of the delegation to Israel, he said that his team thought that some 50 members may show interest and they would be contented to have even 30 looking to join, some 250 members registered in a short time and they had immense difficulty shortlisting people.
JITO is a community of about 15,000 families spread across 65 chapters, including 30 international chapters, Siddharth Jain pointed out.
The delegation leader also expressed his appreciation of how almost 90 per cent of the Israelis he met during his stay of some four days "had so much knowledge about India".
In Israel on a five-day visit, the Jain entrepreneurs' delegation met leading Israeli companies and accelerators in the fields of defence and homeland security, food-tech, smart cities, and cyber security.
Anat Bernstein-Reich, Chairperson of the Israel-India Chamber of Commerce, said in her address that "this huge delegation compensates for the lost two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"With the upcoming FTA and this amazing Jain business delegation and more like that, we can increase our bilateral trade two-fold and more." Ron Malka, the Director-General of the Ministry of Economy and a former Ambassador to India noted that "the big achievement in Israel-India relations is that within 30 years we grew from trade partners to strategic partners".
Several other Israeli officials addressed the delegation during almost four hours of interaction at the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Yaron Mayer, a Director at the ministry who has also served at Israel's embassy in New Delhi, described the first delegation of Jain entrepreneurs as a part of celebrations of 30 years of establishment of Indo-Israel diplomatic ties which creates further "opportunities to enhance cooperation".
Special Jain food arrangements have been made for the delegation which landed in Israel on June 26 and will be leaving on Friday.
It has also signed some cooperation agreements with OurCrowd and Ice Cure.
Anup Mehta, a working committee member of JITO-JIFF who is in the real estate business in Mumbai, told PTI that the group facilitates the building of companies with strong products and services and helps them achieve a substantial market share in their respective fields.
Most of the group members are investors in this venture, Mr Mehta added.