India-Israel relationship is plateauing. Can PM Modi’ visit change this?

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For it to truly blossom, we need human capital investment and equitable growth.

 

Latest news : Starting tomorrow, 4th of July, Prime Minister Modi will commence the first visit by any Indian Prime Minister to Israel. While the commentariat waxes eloquent on the relationship, it is important for us to have a reality check and understand the micro-dynamics of this marriage.

 

There are three main components of India’s cooperation with Israel that are deemed to hold the potential to “revolutionise” the relationship – water, agriculture and defence.

 

Given India’s increasing water problems, and dire predictions of further drop in precipitation over the next few decades, water cooperation between India and Israel is obviously critical. Israel has now transitioned from a water-deficit state to one with a significant water-surplus. It has managed this through pioneering water desalination techniques. All good then – why can’t India benefit from this? Several reasons. First is that the desalination plants themselves have a massive ground footprint and draw huge amounts of energy. Given how many problems even routine industrial land acquisitions face in India, there are limits to how much land can in fact be requisitioned for the building of coastal desalination plants. Moreover, the question remains how much energy can India’s already overdrawn energy sector spare for a desalination plant infrastructure to supplement the water requirements of 1.3 billion Indians. As it is, India’s water pricing structure is deeply flawed, with 125 million litres wasted every day either through theft, bad plumbing, poor irrigation techniques, the cultivation of water intensive crops like sugarcane, or the casual growth of the ecological disaster that is the eucalyptus tree.  Then there is the issue of the desalination plants discharge – dumping high levels of salt into the seas – creating havoc on a coastal ecosystem that has already been ravaged by unchecked coastal fishing. In effect given its high cost, for desalination to make any realistic sense for India, India will have to solve a host of politically charged problems including land, electricity, fishing and farming, something no government can realistically afford to do.

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