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Transcript of Media Briefing on visit of Israel's Prime Minister to India (January 11, 2018)

January 12, 2018

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Namashkar and good afternoon, welcome to this press briefing. I apologize for the last minute postponement but that came because I got request from some of you, there was a clashing engagement. There are two parts to this briefing today. There will be a formal announcement on the visit of the Prime Minister of Israel to India. For that I have Mr. Bala Bhaskar Jt. Secretary (WANA) and after that we will take some question. The second part of course will be the regular press briefing. So without any further delay Bala can I ask you to take us through the program of the Prime Minister of Israel? Thank you.

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: Thank you Raveesh. Dear friends, Prime Minister of Israel Mr. Benjamin Netanyahu is visiting India from 14-19 January, 2018. India and Israel have been commemorating 25 years of diplomatic relations. On this occasion Prime Minister of India undertook a historic first ever visit to Israel in July 2017. The visit of Prime Minister of Netanyahu is a return visit on this occasion.

The program of PM Netanyahu includes a visit to Delhi, Agra, Ahmedabad and Mumbai. He is likely to be accompanied by a business delegation. During this visit Prime Minister Netanyahu will hold bilateral discussions with PM on 15th January 2018. He will also call on Rashtrapati Ji. External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj would also be calling on Prime Minister Netanyahu.

PM Netanyahu will also participate in the Raisina Dialogue on 16th January 2018 and will visit Center of Excellence in Agriculture Vadrad and iCreate Innovation Hub in Gujarat on 17th January 2018. On 18th January he will be visiting Mumbai and he will be participating in a private business event there.

Both Prime Ministers will attend the 2nd India Israel CEO Forum Meeting to be held on 15th January in New Delhi. The first CEO Forum was held during the PM’s visit to Israel. PM Netanyahu will also address a separate business event to be organized on the same day. As you are aware there have been several high level exchanges between the two countries in the last three years starting with the visit of our Hon’ble Rashtrapati JI to Israel in October 2015 and visit by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to India in November 2016. External Affairs Minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj also visited Israel in January 2016.

Since diplomatic relations were established in January 1992 India-Israel bilateral relations have been expanding in the area of agriculture, water, science & technology, innovation, start-up, space, , education, culture, homeland security and defense. During the visit of our PM to Israel last year we have upgraded our relationship to strategic to level with special focus on agriculture and water.

So far 28 Centers of Excellence in agriculture are being set up in 11 states in India under the cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture and MASHAV of Israel. So far 22 centers have been completed. During PM’s visit we signed the work plan for 2018 and 2020 for introduction of new variety post-harvest management technique for increasing the value chain and transform CEO’s Centers of Excellence into commercially viable business models. Our cooperation in the area of agriculture is progressing very well. Steps are also underway for launching a national water campaign for conservation of water with the help of Israel.

During PM Modi’s visit an MoU for establishing a US$40 million India-Israel Industrial R&D and Innovation Fund was setup by the Department of Science & Technology and National Authority for Technological Innovation, Israel. Currently the two nodal agencies are in the process of finalizing the guidelines for operationalization of this fund.

The bilateral trade between India and Israel was US$5 billion in 2016-17. In 2016-17 while the exports from India was US$3 billion, the import to India was $1.96 billion. So the bilateral trade is in India’s favor with about a billion dollar. Major exports from India to Israel include precious stones, metals, chemical products, textiles, textile articles, plants and vegetable products and mineral products. Major imports by India from Israel include precious stones, metals, mineral products, base metals, missionary and transport equipment.

So friends this is the broadly about the visit. If you like I can run through the details about the program otherwise I can be open to question as suggested by JS (XP).

PM Netanyahu will be arriving on 14th January around noon time and that day our External Affairs Minister will call on. The program will start with call on by EAM in the afternoon and that is the day. And second day will be the official day, a ceremonial guard of honor and then official talks followed by lunch by Hon’ble Prime Minister. Then in the evening he will call on the President. On the 15th evening he will be participating in the CEOs Forum around 7 o clock and then followed by, first he will be attending the CEOs Forum and half an hour later both the Prime Ministers will be participating in the Business event.

ON 16th January, he will go to Agra. He will be participating in the Raisina dialogue, that is the major event on the 16th January. ON 17th morning he will leave for Ahmedabad then there he will visit Sabarmati Ashram and then depart for, there is an iCreate Innovation Hub and from there he will be also inaugurating a Centre of Excellence. They will be visiting Center of Excellence and then he will also be interacting with the CEOs there and our Prime Minister will be hosting a lunch. Then on the evening of the 17th there will be a community reception.

In the evening he will be leaving for Mumbai and on 18th he has some programs arranged by Israeli Embassy including a business seminar and the morning of 19th January he will be departing from Mumbai. Thank you.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Thank you Bala.

Question: What about Moshe and his family, they are also coming to Mumbai on this visit, so how will that be part of the visit this time?

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: some of the finer details are yet to be worked out and I’m sure you will be in touch with the XP Division and they will be giving the details subsequently.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Actually there are some elements of the program being drawn up directly by the Israeli embassy and I think as we perhaps approach, may be in the next couple of days we will have those elements fixed as well.

Question: The Spike air to ground missile, reports now indicate there is a rethink after the transfer of technology issue became a sour point. What has changed because it clashed with Make in India, has anything changed?

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: You know India has long lasting and wide ranging defence cooperation with Israel this covers defense equipment as well as defense industry and technology cooperation which are developing very well. So new areas for cooperation are also being actively explored and I’m sure you will be updated on that.

Question: Israel ki taraf se ek khabar aa rahi hai ki Israel ke PM ek special vehicle gift karne wale hain, jis se ki sea ke kinare water purify wala jo special gift hai, to aap hamein bata sakenge ki wo event actually kahan hone wala hai?

(There is a report from Israel side that Israel PM is going to gift a special vehicle to our Prime Minister, so can you tell when this event is going to take place?)

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: Obviously this is a gift by them, we don’t know when he arrives, when that event takes place you will come to know. This is a gift by him so we don’t want to comment till it happens.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: Jo gift dene ki prakriya hain do deshon ke beech mein hoti hai to uska ek alag sa protocol hota hai. Kuch countries mein saamane diya jata hai kuch countries mein behind the scenes exchange hota hai. Jaisa ki Bala ne kaha ki wo finer detail hai, us detail mein hum nahi jaa sakte aaj. Kuch aise cheezein hai jo hum aaj nahi bata paayenge par yadi exchange hai gifts ka to uska modalities abhi work out ho raha hai.

(Look, the process of exchanging gift between two countries has an established protocol. In some countries it is given publicly while in some countries it is done behind the scenes. As mentioned by Bala those are the finer details which are still being worked out, but if there is an exchange of gifts, its modalities is still being worked out.)

Question: You said that the bilateral trade is worth $5 billion that includes defense also, or can you give separate figures for defense trade?

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: Defense trade is a different kind of thing which includes upgradation of various items. This figure is only for the non-defense trade.

Question Contd.: You don’t have the figures for the defense trade?

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: No, they are not exactly measured like that, they are of different forms, it is a technological collaboration, upgradation, software related, those kind of things, it doesn’t give exact figures.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You see the bilateral trade internationally is measured under a HS coding system. Now there are different components which may go into defence, there are components which may just touch upon the defense procurement. I think this is something which is publically available as well. I don’t think it is a classified documents.

Question: What can be the key deliverables from this visit and are we expecting some deals also, if there are, can you give some details?

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: As I mentioned earlier, we have been celebrating 25 years of establishment of our diplomatic relations, this is a very very special relationship. On this occasion it was decided that both Prime Ministers should exchange visits in this year. This in itself was a major outcome. Our Prime Minister visited Israel for the first time, a first ever visit by Indian Prime Minister and then we decided that in the same year the Israeli Prime Minister will also come. Actually this visit by PM of Israel completes now our celebrations of 25 years.

So when he comes we will be discussing lot of issues. I mentioned to you. Our cooperation has been expanded into several areas. It all started with agriculture, now we have large areas of cooperation predominantly dominated by technology collaboration, innovation, R&D, science, space, so these are actually very qualitative engagements characterized by technological collaboration and innovation.

Question: Israel mein Tel Aviv se Jerusalem le jaane ke mudde par Bharat ne jo voting ki thi kya us mudde par bhi Bharat agaami yatra mein kuch kehna chahega, apni baat rakhna chahega?

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: You know that our policy is not influenced by any third country, it has been coming there for many years and our policy is independent. There is nothing to do with our policies with other countries.

Question: Any event being planned around the Haifa Memorial in Delhi?

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: I don’t have those kind of details. Today it is only 11th January, there are a lot of programs and in the coming 3-4 days they will be fine-tuned. We are still working on finer aspects of his program

Question: Many a times it has been conveyed in one way or another that both Israel and Palestine wants India to facilitate the solution. So in this visit are there going to be any talks on this because Prime Minister may also visit Palestine in coming months?

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: When both the leaders meet they will be discussing wide range of issues. On every issue they will be exchanging views and I’m sure this also will figure but our views are known and we have our own views and our own policies that have been coming for long time and they have their view, so will be exchanging views on various matters in the discussions.

Question: When Palestinian President came to India he had openly said that we will like India to encourage Israel to find a solution between the two countries, so in that context I asked when the Prime Minister met Israeli Prime Minister and now again he is coming, so is this issue going to be taken?

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: No, I have not received any such request so far and at this point of time this is a hypothetical question.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: You know that the discussions taking place between the two leaders, the agenda is always very broad, but what exactly gets discussed is very difficult to project at this stage. There will of course be some form of release, some statement after the visit where we will be able to throw more light on what exactly transpired between the two leaders.

Question: Sir, will Moshe along with his Nanny be visiting India along with Prime Minister Netanyahu and if so are there any programs around them that are being organized by the Indian side?

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: As of now we are still fine tuning the list of the delegation and finer details so we are not aware exactly the final composition of the delegation and as of now we don’t have the details. Generally such things will be organized by Israeli embassy.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: What I sense is that there are several elements and several questions coming to us which relate to may be some of the private aspect of the program being drawn up directly by the Israeli embassy. In such cases perhaps you may also wish to ask them. Bala has already gone through the official part of the program starting on the 14th and going all the way to 18th January.

Question: Agriculture ke kshetra mein technology transfer ko lekar pichhale tamaam meetings mein charcha hui. Pehla sawaal to ye hai ki kya is baar ke bhi agenda mein isko rakha gaya hai? Doosar, ab tak kya progress hua, Israel se kis tarah se agriculture se related technology India mein transfer huin hain ya hone wali hain?

(A lot of discussion have taken place on technology transfer in the area of agriculture. First, has this been included in the agenda of this meeting? Secondly, what is the progress till now, what kind of agriculture technology has been transferred till now from Israel or is expected to be transferred in the near future?)

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: As I mentioned there are proposal for setting up 28 Centers of Excellence. These Centers of Excellence are meant to impart training to the farmers on crop production, water harvesting, crop management, pesticide management, how to increase productivity and how to use water efficiently, how to use fertilizer efficiently, all these comprehensive information and knowledge is demonstrated in these centers of excellence for the farmers in various sectors, in vegetables, horticulture, mangoes, fruits, in different states different types of centers of excellence are there. So the farmers are largely benefitted by these centers of excellence.

We want to take this cooperation to higher level. Now the focus, last time when our Prime Minister visited Israel we have developed a strategic relationship with an intensive focus and cooperation on agriculture and water. That is the major component of our strategic partnership. So now we will be discussing how to take this cooperation to higher level, how to see the benefits are reached to a large number of farmers, how to develop commercial model from these centers of excellence so all these areas are for discussion and we are continuously engaged in deepening this cooperation in agriculture and water.

Question: Israel ke pradhanmantri ki patni ka koi alag se karyakram hai ya unke parivar ke sadasya bhi saath aa rahe hain, iska detail aapke pass aa gaya hoga ya Israeli embassy ke pass hi hai?

(Is there a separate program for the spouse of Israel Prime Minister or any of his family members are also coming along, do you have any details regarding this or it is available with Israel embassy?)

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: As I mentioned there are some elements which Israeli embassy will be organizing, some of the private programs. May be it is best to approach Israel embassy, they may be doing some events for them.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: I can tell you that normally when you have a spouse accompanying the leader of a country, there is a parallel program which we work out or our protocol works out for the spouse. There will be a program, as Bala said there are some finer touches that are being given. We may be able to share some elements of the program maybe by tomorrow sometime.

Question: I just wanted to know about this Bollywood Outreach that Israel is doing and what exactly is on the cards on that front?

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: I think these programs generally are private in nature and Israel embassy will be organizing all these events. If at all these kind of events, the only way these things are organized are through their embassy in India.

Question: Tank Guided Missile, Spike, it is said that there would be deal between government to government level leaving the procedural level things behind, like the Rafael deal, what you have to say about that?

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: You know these defence cooperation agreements have a set mechanism. These are all commercial decisions based on several factors and there are procedures there are mechanisms. SO I think any such issues have to go through these established procedures, I am sure which all of you are well aware. Thank you.

Question: Kya Free Trade Agreement par baatcheet ko antim roop diya ja raha hai?

(Are the discussions on Free Trade Agreement being given final touches?)

Jt. Secretary (WANA), Dr. B Bala Bhaskar: These are all in the discussion stage and official level teams are discussion on these and we will have to see how this goes about.

Official Spokesperson, Shri Raveesh Kumar: As there are no other questions on the visit, this part of the briefing comes to an end. Thank you Bala for joining in.

(Concludes)
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