Chandigarh, June 13

Israeli envoy to India Daniel Carmon has invited Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh to visit his country in September to take forward their discussion on cooperation across a wide range of subjects, including defence, agriculture, horticulture and water conservation.

This was disclosed here by an official spokesperson after the Israeli Ambassador to India Daniel Carmon met the Chief Minister here on Tuesday morning. The two sides explored enhanced cooperation in several areas that are critical for the development and progress of Punjab, said the spokesperson, adding that the Chief Minister has suggested that his delegation to Israel could include some progressive farmers.

The Israeli delegation said they looked forward to the Chief Minister’s visit, which could follow the Prime Minister’s visit to their country, and offered to prepare a tailor-made agenda to ensure a continued meaningful dialogue. The delegation invited the Chief Minister to coincide his visit with WATEC Israel – an international professional exhibition to be held in Tel Aviv from September 12-14, which would offer a platform to showcase latest technologies in water and environment.

While defence is on top priority for cooperation between Israel and Punjab, the Chief Minister is also keen to use Israeli expertise to promote horticulture, dairy farming, bee-keeping, irrigation and water conservation in the state. Besides working on a strategic partnership on water conservation and agriculture, the two sides also decided to set up a joint working group on agriculture, horticulture and dairy farming.

This was the second meeting between Captain Amarinder and the Israeli envoy since the former took over as Punjab chief minister. At their last meeting, held in April, the two sides had agreed to explore the possibility of setting up a Punjab-Israel working group for continuous dialogue on issues of mutual interest, with the concurrence of the Government of India. The two decided on Tuesday to put in place a robust mechanism to set up the working group, said the spokesperson.

The Israeli envoy evinced keen interest in setting up more Centres of Excellence to promote agriculture diversification across the state after the huge success of its two such existing Centres of Excellence at Kartarpur (Jalandhar) and Hoshiarpur. He said these centres had been instrumental in introducing high yielding varieties of fruits, vegetables, new farm practices under controlled conditions, net farming, drip and sprinkler irrigation. Carmon informed the Chief Minister that two more such centres were in pipeline, one in floriculture and another in beekeeping, to boost allied farming in the state. He sought Captain Amarinder’s personal intervention to get both these projects expedited from the Ministry of External Affairs.

The two also agreed on the need to incentivize private companies to collaborate on such projects, with the Chief Minister urging the Israeli delegation to showcase their technology to Indian private companies to motivate them to join in the government efforts. Private companies could be engaged initially to work on a pilot project, which could pave the way for large-scale engagement and funding of such projects, Captain Amarinder suggested, underlining the need for a quantum shift in technology to promote farming as a viable source of income for the government.

He asked his Chief Principal Secretary to rope in key players in agritech, such as Ambanis, Mahindras and ITC, for value addition to supplement the income of the farmers, who were passing through acute financial crisis due to squeezed margins and low returns on account of near stagnant MSP.

Expressing concern over the depleting water table, the Chief Minister sought Israeli support in helping farmers adopt innovative techniques in drip irrigation and hydroponics to tackle the water problem. Model farms should be created to help create awareness for farmers, he said, emphasizing the need for promoting vegetables and floriculture marketing as a means of boosting agriculture income. The Chief Minister suggesting exploring the possibility of converting the Mandi Board building into a market to enable seamless marketing of produce by the farmers.

Responding to the request of the visiting envoy to join MASHAV- Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation programme, Captain Amarinder asked the Chief Secretary to explore the possibility to chalk out an action plan for training in different short term courses offered by the Israeli government to further augment Human Resource Development, besides enhancing capacity building programmes.

Among those who attended the meeting were Chief Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Suresh Kumar, Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Tejveer Singh, Additional Chief Secretary (Development) Satish Chandra, Principal Secretary Industries & Commerce D.P. Reddy and CEO Invest Punjab D.K. Tewari.