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February 11, 2015 5:49 pm

The Next Big Thing: India-Israel Defense Start Ups

avatar by Vijeta Uniyal

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

With economic growth and demand slowing down in Europe, the sun for Israel’s export-oriented economy is rising in the East.

China and India, the two giant economies of Asia, not only offer attractive growth prospects – in contrast to the saturated markets of continental Europe – but their populations also widely view Israel favourably.

Especially in the case of India, Israel is well placed to meet some key strategic demands of the country today. India, under the new government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has embarked on an ambitious plan to increase the share of domestic manufacturers in defense procurement.

With the third largest military in the world, India is one of the largest importers of defense equipment; the country’s 2014 defense budget was more than $37 billion, and more than 60% of defense requirements were met with imports.

India’s defense research agency, DRDO, wants to bridge the gap in technological innovation at home, and has decided to promote start-up ventures in the Defense Sector.

This is a marked change in the country’s defense doctrine, which largely has focused on the public sector. The proposed DRDO fund encourages start-ups to proactively come up with solutions and innovations in the defense field.This has already led Indians and Israelis to work together.

Israel and India are already working on big ticket defense items, like the Barak-8 surface-to-air missile jointly developed by India’s DRDO and Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd (IAI). The missile system will be be deployed on the indigenously built Naval Destroyer INS Kolkata.

Later this month, the countries’ mutual defense cooperation is set to get yet another boost when Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon visits India – the first ever official visit by an Israeli Defense Minister since the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and Israel in 1991.

Just like Israel, India also has a vibrant start-up scene, and several government programs and funds have already been instituted to enable and promote Israeli innovators and entrepreneurs to team up with Indian counterparts.

The Jerusalem-based Israel-Asia Center (IAC) offers one such program to help Indian entrepreneurs link-up with Israel.

IAC’s founder and Executive Director Rebecca Zeffert has noticed rising interest amongst young Indians in Israel, “not only as a study destination, but also as an incubator for finding solutions to global challenges. [Indians] are coming here to plug into Israel’s innovation and entrepreneurial energy, develop their ideas and ventures, and establish partnerships with Israeli counterparts.”

Indian entrepreneur Vishal Dharmadhikari is one such success story. After getting a master’s degree in Security and Diplomacy Studies from Tel Aviv University and completing IAC’s leadership fellowship program in 2013, Dharmadhikari went back to India and launched a cyber-security company – India Cyber Connect.

This rise in the defense industry can help strengthen ties between these two great democracies: Israel and India.

Vijeta Uniyal is an Indian-born journalist based in Germany.

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