Israel seeks Indian investments in infrastructure
New Delhi : Seeking to expand its robust ties in defence sector to other fields, Israel has sought large Indian investments in its infrastructure and transportation sectors, saying this would greatly contribute to its economy.
"We have very good relations in the military and defence industries' sphere. We need to enhance this with your investments in our infrastructure and transportation sectors," Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shaul Mofaz, a retired lieutenant general, said during an interactive session organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) here.
"Both countries have tremendous potential to grow in the economic field," added Mofaz, who was chief of staff of the Israel Defence Force 1998-2002 and till last year was the country's defence minister.
"You are the world's greatest democracy. We are the only democracy in the Middle East. That is the basis of our looking at strengthening bonds with businesses. We need credible and reliable partners like you," he contended.
During his visit, Mofaz met External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Road Transport and Highways Minister T.R. Baalu.
According to a senior official accompanying Mofaz, Israel hoped to spend $6 billion on improving its ports, $10 billion on enhancing its highways and roads, and an unspecified amount on building an airport in the sea off capital Tel Aviv, as also $50 million on an airstrip at the southern port town of Eliat.
"India and Israel can serve as the base of a triangle for attracting additional investments from third countries," explained Gideon Siterman, director general in the country's transport ministry.
Speaking about the individual sectors, Siterman said Israel was focusing on developing new ports and enhancing existing ones as 99 percent of its trade was through the sea.
This apart, Israel was also mulling an ambitious 940-km railway line from its Haifa port to Baghdad via Jordan for exports aimed at Europe and other destinations and vice versa.
"The existing journey from Basra, via the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean means travelling some 6,000 km. So the benefits of an overland link are obvious. Of course, it depends on a number of (political) matters," Siterman maintained.
"Investing in ports on a BOT (build, operate, transfer) basis is an option Indian companies should look at," he added.
The airports and roads projects would also be public-private partnerships, the official said.
Answering a question on the security that would be provided to Indian companies if they opened shop in Israel, he pointed out that a number of international companies and "thousands of workers from abroad", were already present in the country.
"Just a few weeks ago, hundreds of Chinese workers have arrived to build a metro railway system in Haifa. There is no specific (security-related) problem. What you see and read about is more a perception rather than a reality," Siterman maintained.