JERUSALEM: That India-Israel relations go beyond defence and security will be emphasised when Prime Minister Narendra Modi makes his first stop at a flower farm after landing in Tel Aviv late afternoon Tuesday.
The highlight of that visit will be a drone — not surveillance, not armed. It is a research drone, which according to sources, will be able to detect things like water needs, therefore making water use in farms smarter and more efficient.
The drone was recently in a spot of controversy, when the Israeli agri minister Uri Ariel “gifted” one to visiting Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev. This is a $50,000 drone, and needs defence ministry clearance to export. Post that foot-in-mouth event, Israelis gave the drone, but without the operating system or its remote controls, making it little more than a toy. The Russians were angry at the hollowed out gift, and Israel was stuck. That’s not likely to happen with Modi, who might make a case for such drones to be manufactured in India!
On the 6th, Modi and Netanyahu are likely to stop off at a beach to see another of Israel’s cutting-edge technologies — a mobile desalination unit mounted on a four-wheel drive buggy. This takes water “from anywhere, sea, muddy lakes” and transforms it into drinking water. For Indian villages, this could be a godsend.
In recent months, Israeli companies have showcased another invention in India — a water cooler which captures atmospheric water and purifies it to become drinking water, without needing a water source.
Agriculture and water will be the dominant themes for Modi’s first visit to Israel. The two countries will sign a strategic partnership for water and agriculture, as India works to pull its own agri and water sector out of a historical quagmire. Israel is a good place to start — this water-scarce nation is now a global leader in water technologies. “We had a desalination technology that we developed years ago, then forgot. Three decades later, when our water troubles became real bad, we discovered this lying around, tweaked it, and voila!” said an official, who did not want to be named talking to the media before the visit. For Indians who pride ourselves on the world’s best mangoes being in India, India is bidding fair to becoming a mango power as well.
A third of the water Israel uses is desalinated water, said Daniel Carmon, briefing journalists recently. Israeli companies have set up around eight desalination sites in India. But during the Modi visit this time, Israel will sign a water management agreement with the first Indian state — Uttar Pradesh.