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India and Israel bond with technology, innovation

India will showcase its technology capabilities in Israel in May as relations between the two countries are getting redefined with enhanced cooperation based on innovation in high-tech, IT, biomed, energy and cyber security.

India will participate in the First Innovation Conference in Israel, MIXiii 2014, that will take place at the Tel Aviv Fairgrounds May 20-22. The conference aims to introduce participants to the broad spectrum of activities and ecosystem that make Israel one of the largest global innovation hubs.

There is excellent cutting-edge technology to be found in Israel, government and company officials here say. The government has already registered at MIXiii 2014 and would take delegations from the country to showcase India's capabilities.

"Israel is the epicentre of world innovation right now," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, last month in a speech that focussed on Israel as a hub for innovation as well as research and development.

"This is an invitation to an innovation nation, it's open for business, it's open for your business, please come join us," he said, citing interesting examples of Israeli innovation -- how scarce water resources has inspired Israelis to develop the world's most advance technologies for re-using water, and how scarce agricultural land has inspired them to learn how to get more milk out of every cow.

Last May, Israel hosted a summit that highlighted the role innovation can play in helping Asian countries cope with critical demographic, social, technological and environmental problems.

"Israel and India are existential partners," Israel's Ambassador to India Alon Ushpiz told news agency  editors in a chat at the agency office. "There are many joint values and joint interests on the basis of which the relationship can become a truly strategic one.

"The possibilities for cooperation are limitless."

Since full diplomatic relations between Israel and India were established in 1992, the two countries have moved significantly closer, largely on the basis of growing sales by Israel's defence industry to India. India is the largest customer of Israeli military equipment and Israel is the second largest military partner of India after Russia.

But technology collaborations in newer, diverse sectors such as water, solar, agriculture and biotech are quickening the strategic dialogue and interactions that have moved from relative obscurity to the centre of India's foreign policy agenda. Officials from both sides say Israeli-Indian cooperation is now poised for dramatic boosts.

In the past, the connections between Israel and India were made by American companies. They come to Israel to buy some technology and then move the production to India. Now there is a realization on both sides that they should come together directly and not through third party.

India and Israel have set up a USD 40 million fund to leverage innovation for economic collaboration through jointly developed technologies or joint collaborations. The fund would help Israeli companies participate in large Indian government-led ventures, foster collaboration of Israeli and Indian companies in R&D projects and seek to adapt products developed in Israel for the Indian market.

Also spurring the two democracies are a growing consensus on security, emerging threats and expanding agenda of shared regional interests.

"Israel and India are both facing similar challenges regarding prevention of terror threats, the defence of national borders, and internal security. The operational capacity of Israeli technologies meets India's needs," said Brig. Gen. (IAF, Res.) Shmaya Avieli, director of SIBAT, the International Defense Cooperation Division of the Israel Ministry of Defense (IMOD).

Earlier this month, 21 Israeli defence companies presented their cutting-edge solutions at the Defence Expo-2014 in New Delhi.

"Israel considers India as a partner and ally in the Global War on Terrorism. The prevention of terror in India contributes to the stability of both countries, and this partnership is important for the ongoing defence of the two democracies," said Avieli.

Both countries will work jointly to sharpen their expertise in the application of ground surveillance radar systems. Hyderabad-based Electronics Corporation of India and Israeli conglomerate Elbit Systems signed a letter of intent at the Defexpo.

Meeting Indian businessmen last October, President Shimon Peres focussed on cultural ties and said India could be of help in alleviating some of the tensions of the Middle East by introducing Arab societies to science and technology, and telling them how to escape poverty.

One area that is gaining attraction is homeland security. Given India's growing economy and huge population, there is room for greater cooperation.
in November last year, home ministers of the two countries discussed inter-agency collaboration at what Uspiz said was a "great meeting".

India is surrounded by countries, individuals, groups, and perhaps even governments hostile to it. Cyber attacks have been mounted against networks throughout the country. Cyber crime is also a growing problem, with many online businesses lacking the necessary software to protect their systems.

According to the IVC business data firm, there are 224 cyber security companies in Israel. India needs sophisticated technology to protect networks, databases, and enterprise computer systems. Recently Israel successfully fought off a major distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack by hacktivist group Anonymous.

In 2012, the two countries agreed to a programme to promote joint research with regard to cyber security.

Trade and industry experts say the nature of relations is also shifting from a buyer-seller one to technology transfer and collaboration. India is buying Israeli companies and establishing more joint ventures between the nations. Jain Irrigation Systems recently bought the drip irrigation company Naan-Dan that had been run by kibbutzims in Israel.

Because of the small Israeli market, officials say, there is not much of a traditional trade relationship. But that could change. The two countries are negotiating a free trade agreement, which Uspiz said, could be a "strategic game changer", expanding the scope and volume of trade two to three times over three to four years.

And the trigger would be technology. "The economic potential, especially in the high-tech sector, is huge," Ayal Moskal, Israel country manager of Tata Consultancy Services, said after a Track-II conference organised by the Aspen Institute of India and Tel Aviv University last October.

"If we join forces, we can conquer the economic world," Moscal said, pointing to the direction the relationship is moving.