New Delhi: They say the same thing happening twice is coincidence, the third time is a pattern or trend. Read in that light, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelling his visit to India for the second time (because of elections on September 17) could be just coincidence since he had given the same excuse in April (for an earlier round of elections) when he was due in India.
Israel’s Ambassador to India Ron Malka glossed over the cancellations, telling journalists in Delhi on Friday that “there are many scheduling constraints about what is urgent. The two prime ministers want to meet and will do so after the elections”.
Incidentally, Netanyahu was in London on Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and is now apparently off to Moscow for talks with President Putin on the situation along Israel’s border with Syria.
Malka appeared to indirectly acknowledge the latter when he said that “tensions on our border are nothing new. We will not let anyone use precision weapons against Israel and we will not let any terrorist attack our cities or our people. We will take all measures necessary”.
Taking direct aim at Iran, he warned that its Islamic leadership should not be allowed to export terrorism and violence across the region. “We need to bring Iran to the negotiating table, we need a better deal with Iran (JCPOA), a new lasting deal that will bring prosperity to the Iranian people.”
Malka was talking to the Indian Association of Foreign Affairs Correspondents and some of the questions centred on Israel’s growing ties with Arab states. Without naming any Arab country, Malka acknowledged that “since last year, because of Iran we have become closer (to Arab states). Anything radical becomes a threat and we will unite to fight the threat.”
He rejected the view that Israel had done nothing to further the cause of regional peace. “We will do a lot for peace. We gave up 50 per cent of territory (Sinai desert) for peace with Egypt. We offered Syria all land captured since the 1967 war. We negotiated with Palestinians in 2000 and 2008, offering nearly all territory occupied since 1967 but they would not sign. They do not recognise our basic right to live. We can’t negotiate away our existence.”
Other questions centred on relations with India. In particular Malka underscored his country’s involvement in a signature Indian government initiative on water. Israel is working closely with India’s newly established Jal Shakti Ministry for an integrated approach to solving water scarcity that impacts both agriculture and rural households.
“We reuse 90 per cent of our water and are going beyond drip irrigation to precision irrigation involving drones and satellites,” Malka said, indicating his country was prepared to share its experience and technology to help India overcome water shortage and desertification.
Incidentally, over 1,47,000 Indian farmers have been trained in the 28 centres of excellence set up with Israeli help all over the country. “We are looking at villages of excellence where water is used in an efficient way but we are going to do more than that. We are also working on a master plan (with Maharashtra government) for a comprehensive approach to water.”
Calling abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir India’s “internal” matter, Malka said he is sure the government will resolve the issue in “democratic” and “peaceful” ways.
He would not comment on the Spike missile deal that Israel is keen to sell to India nor on the number of Israeli firms that have set up operations in India in the military area. As he put it: “Israel is short of manpower; we have full employment and therefore Make in India works well for us.”