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New Delhi: After cementing their partnership in defence and agriculture, India and Israel are looking to further their cooperation to water conservation, recycling and desalination.

Israel is the partner country in India’s “water week" starting on 4 April and many technologies in water conservation and desalination pioneered by Israeli companies will be on display.

According to David Carmon, Israel’s ambassador to India, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested water conservation and other related areas as the new frontier of cooperation between the two countries during President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to the country in October and also during foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit earlier this year.

“The prime minister (Netanyahu) offered the president (Mukherjee) a project—in water management, in water desalination, in water recycling or in all of them together. He said we would love to share the expertise that Israel has in water, we would love to do this on a government to government basis, we would love to offer through a consortium of Israeli companies... we could encourage Israeli companies to join the Israeli side of the partnership," Carmon told reporters in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Noting that the two countries had a deep collaboration in defence and agriculture, Carmon said, “The next big thing we would like to do is...in water. We are already engaged in this sector but the potential is enormous."

The southern Indian city of Chennai was already using Israeli desalination techniques to supply water to residents in the city, he said.

In agriculture, Israel’s drip irrigation method is popular in many parts of India. Once on opposite camps because of India’s staunch support to the cause of Palestine’s statehood, ties between India and Israel rapidly warmed after the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1992. Since then political and people-to-people ties have grown along with defence relations, with Israel numbering among the top arms exporters to India.

Then Israel president Ezer Weizman visited India in 1997 followed by then prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2003. Indian president Pranab Mukherjee visited Israel last year and prime minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to travel to Israel soon.

Currently, the two sides cooperate in intelligence sharing, counter-terrorism, cyber security and a host of other areas. In agriculture, Israel has set up Centres of Excellence (CoE), given the high priority for food security in India. At present there are 26 CoEs across nine Indian states. Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Karnataka were among the states that benefited from Israel’s expertise in agriculture, Carmon said.

The two countries are expected to open another CoE in Ladua, Haryana, next week during the visit of Israel agriculture minister Uri Ariel. “Our approach is aimed at bringing applied research which provides solutions to the farmers, addressing gaps via implementation of Israeli technology and know-how tailored to local conditions," Carmon said.

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