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June 22, 2016 5:52 pm

Israeli Spokesman in New Delhi: Indian Water Minister’s Upcoming Trip to Jerusalem Signifies Additional Boost to Bilateral Agricultural Ties (INTERVIEW)

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Indian Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti will visit Israel at the end of June to gain insight into Israel's innovative agricultural techniques. Photo: Twitter.

Indian Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti will visit Israel at the end of June to gain insight into Israel’s innovative agricultural techniques. Photo: Twitter.

The upcoming visit of India’s water minister to Israel is a “very important step forward” in furthering bilateral ties, a spokesman from the Israeli Embassy in New Delhi told The Algemeiner on Wednesday.

Ohad Horsandi said that one of the main purposes of Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti’s trip to Israel is “to gain first-hand knowledge of Israeli technologies and expertise in the water sector — including desalination and urban water systems — and how these techniques can be implemented back in India.”

According to Horsandi, one of the most significant aspects of the relationship between the two countries is the optimization of Israeli agricultural expertise and technology — and water conservation. As India grapples with the latter, he said, “This year, water has been at the center of our attention.”

And Israel, he said, is a world leader in making agriculture flourish in an arid environment with limited water.

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Horsandi told The Algemeiner that 80 percent of Israel’s domestic wastewater is treated and recycled for agricultural use, with nearly 50 percent of total water used for agriculture. India is one of many countries to have adopted the Israel-pioneered drip irrigation system, which provides just the amount of water needed, drop by drop, to the roots of plants, thereby conserving water. 

“The challenges Israel faced only a few years ago are not much different to what India is facing today. That is why our cooperation seems natural,” Horsandi said. “Still, there are many difference between Israel and India, and it would be unrealistic to expect ‘cut and paste’ solutions to work, but that doesn’t mean a lot can’t be done.”

In March, as reported by The Algemeiner, Israeli Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Uri Ariel announced plans to more than double the amount of agricultural Centers of Excellence in India, one of many moves aimed at bolstering the Indo-Israel Agriculture Project (IIAP) . Bharti’s visit is the latest step in this direction.

“Through the Embassy in Delhi, we have been discussing a number of ways to cooperate with India in the field of water. A visit by the minister herself is a significant move towards the implementation of additional projects,” Horsandi told The Algemeiner, adding that under the current phase of the IIAP, the number of projects will expand from nine to 15 states across India and include up to 26 Centers of Excellence.

The water minister’s visit has important political implications as well, the spokesman said. “This is another high-level interaction between leaders on both sides. Bharti’s visit comes mere months after President Pranab Mukherjee’s trip last October — the first visit by an Indian president to Israel.”

Other Indian officials of note who visited Israel include External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in January 2016 and the minister of agriculture from Rajasthan, Prabhu Lal Saini, two weeks ago.

Bharti is expected to arrive on June 28 and stay for two days, during which she will meet with her Israeli counterparts — Ariel and Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Seinitz — as well as other officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel Water Authority and leading Israeli water companies.

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