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Now, PM Narendra Modi a mascot for elections in Israel too!

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Vinod Kumar Shukla

Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears to be not only the election mascot of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but also to the Likud Party of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as he reportedly plans to visit India to have a photo-op with Prime Minister Narendra Modi that might help him winning elections there. This is what one of the opinion pieces in a newspaper in Israel suggests.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi too used his diplomatic achievements to the maximum so Netanyahu seems to be doing as he failed to get the majority. The Ha’aretz columnist Yossi Verter in his opinion piece writes, “Netanyahu’s Out of Luck, but he’s hoping a photo-op with India’s Narendra Modi Will Help’, over the weekend argued that Netanyahu ‘enlisted’ (or recruited) three heads of world and regional powers to help boost his campaign before the April 9 elections who failed to form a coalition after the April polls, plans to visit India ahead of the repeat elections in September hoping that a photo-op with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi will boost his campaign.” This opinion piece was published in a leading Israeli daily called Ha’aretz.

So to understand that it is not only government-to-government but people-to-people bonding that is equally strong in the case of India and Israel. Moreover, there has been a definite policy shift in India’s foreign policy vis-e-vis Israel which now seems to have tilted towards the Jewish country instead of India doing a balancing act between Israel and Palestine as in the past. On many issues India has openly come out in support of Israel while Israel was always forthcoming. The name of Teen Murti Chowk has been changed as Haifa Chowk and every year people from India go to Israel to commemorate Haifa. Let us first understand that India’s traditional dependency on Israel has been for arms and ammunition, intelligence inputs and fight against terrorism but now some new entrants have in the list like software technology as the country is the best in anti-hacking software, water management and agriculture. The Spice Bomb used in the Balakot attack was supplied to India by Israel.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi constituted a new ministry called Jal Shakti and in his first ‘Man Ki Baat’ also he talked about water conservation that is elixir to life. Here also Israel figures in a big way as they are leading the world in agriculture and water technologies. The Israel government is helping India in water conservation in many ways; they will help us in desalination of sea water, drip water irrigation technology. They have also some plan to help India for the dry regions like Bundelkhand in Uttar Pradesh, Kachch in Gujarat and Vidharbha in Maharashtra where water is a prime concern. The topography of these areas is very similar to that of Israel.

The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem is said to have reached out to its counterpart in New Delhi and requested for an invitation. Netanyahu’s visit to New Delhi is indeed being worked out and the Indian PMO had suggested the week of August 25 for the visit. But Israeli side prefers a September visit which would be closer to the general elections on the September 17, 2019. So Netanyahu will land, meet, have his picture taken, market the visit as “very important” for Israel’s security and economic interests, complain that the leftist media ignored the trip and upload something to Facebook, the journalist writes.  If anyone can impact elections in any other country, the person seems to have really grown big beyond imagination of many. Now, Netanyahu will in all likelihood be visiting India in September.

“The Israeli Prime Minister, who is fighting for his personal survival ahead of a hearing before the state prosecution on several cases, must find a way to bounce back,” the columnist noted.  “Prime Minister Modi is a true friend. A friend indeed for a friend in need! The Indians checked their diary and got back to the Israelis with a suggestion for an August visit. Not happening, came the answer – but we’d be happy to come in the first week of September (about 10 days before the election). It’s a good bet that Modi and his aides know why the bride’s in a rush to go under the chuppah, but, what are friends for?” the columnist wrote.

The first request for an invitation for Netanyahu to visit New Delhi was made in January during the visit of Israeli National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Sabbath to India. The two leaders were scheduled to meet on February 11 before the elections in Israel but Netanyahu called off his trip to New Delhi due to other engagements. The efforts regarding the visit were renewed after the Israeli parliament was dissolved and fresh elections announced.

Netanyahu visited India in January 2018 while Narendra Modi travelled to Tel Aviv in 2017, becoming the first Indian Prime Minister to tour the Jewish state, where Netanyahu received him at the airport. A picture of two of them strolling barefoot at the Olga beach in northern Israel during Modi’s visit to the country in 2017 created waves with talks of ‘bromance’ in Israel.

Opinion polls carried out by Channel 12 and 13 on Wednesday showed that Netanyahu’s ruling Likud party led right bloc will fall short of the 61 mark by four to five seats, which would mean that he would again require support of his one-time close confidante Avigdor Lieberman.

Indian PM’s main focus is on water as this year there is a shortfall in monsoon rains and India otherwise also is facing acute water shortage and drought like situation and Israel has always expressed its keenness to share its experience in dealing with desertification and water management, in which it is a world leader.

Israel has over 60 per cent of its land being a desert and another 20 per cent semi-arid land developed many a solutions to desertification through desert agriculture, irrigation, desalination, aquaculture, afforestation and management of water resources. Israel leads the world in desert technologies and methods of dealing with desertification.

As part of the growing partnership with India, Israel is keen to work together and share all its experience and cutting edge technology in fight against desertification, including a strategic partnership on water management and water security that India too is facing. India also has a huge area similar in topography to Israel.

MASHAV, the country’s Agency for International Development Cooperation, places special emphasis on development cooperation and assistance in the fight against desertification and drought by introducing international programs of capacity building, training, project development and research. MASHAV’s approach is based on Israel’s experience in facing harsh climatic conditions, combines the transfer of adaptable technology, research and development, and a hands-on experience originating from leading Israeli experts and institutions.

Under the Indo-Israeli Agricultural Project with the federal and state governments of India, the centre of excellence for date palms in the heart of the desert in Bhuj, Gujarat introduced Indian farmers to date palms suitable for arid conditions made more common by desertification. Date palms are ideal value crops for farmers in arid conditions that can be found in India and Israel alike. So the visit of Israeli PM to India might help him to get majority but otherwise both the countries have huge dependency and trust on each other in the changing world order it becomes all the more important for them.

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