Montage Israel strengthening ties with India China Photo Israeli GPO Mark NeimanThere are two huge markets, mostly undeveloped, that are opening up to Israel: China and India. While the Western world largely ignores them, Israel is pursuing these Asian countries in the East where, in general, there is a unique openness to the Jewish state.


This week, Prime Minister Netanyahu's cabinet is emphasizing active pursuit of strengthened relations with two of the largest countries in the world: China and India.

The emphasis comes as Israel honors its 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations with the two regional giants.

Central issues on the agendas of each country include diplomatic and economic ties.

Presentations about these matters were made to the cabinet by Mark Sofer and Hagai Shagrir. Sofer is Israel's Deputy Director of Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign Ministry, while Shagrir is Deputy Head of the Israel's Asia Division.

Shagrir said that "platforms" between the governments of China and Israel are very good.

For its part and there is a significant push from the Chinese to do business with Israel. Shagrir noted that trade between the two countries stands at $11 billion, of which only $3 billion is export.

Noting the low export number, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "We must break this trend;" adding, "this is a massive market and a strategic step for the Israeli economy."

A free-trade agreement between Israel and China is currently being negotiated. It is expected to significantly increase trade.

Sofer emphasized that "there is a window of opportunity with India and China. We must take advantage of it; is critical for us. These are two important countries and their desire to trade with Israel is unique."

Regarding India, its Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, is scheduled to make an historic visit to Israel in 2017.

India's Ambassador to Israel, Pavan Kapoor, made the announcement Monday night in an exclusive interview with YNet News.

Modi's visit will mark the first time in history that an Indian prime minister has visited Israel. It is regarded as an upgrade in Israel's relations with India on many levels, including diplomatic, economic and cultural ties.

In the last two years, there have been two high-profile visits between officials. In 2015, the president of India, Pranab Mukherjee, visited Israel. One year later, in 2016, Israeli President Rivlin visited India in return.

In recent weeks, Prime Minister Modi also met with Israel's Minister of Agriculture, Uri Ariel. Ariel was in India to finalize an upgrade in agricultural relations between the two nations.

India's Ambassador Kapoor has also addressed a plan direct flights from Delhi to Tel Aviv. Currently, only El Al operates direct flights from Tel Aviv to Mumbai. The Indian embassy is currently in talks with Air India to operate a direct line between the two nations.

Currently, between 35,000-40,000 Israelis visit India annually and vice versa. The two nations are interested in significantly upgrading the number of tourists per annum.

Another issue is that Israelis love Indian food. But, says India's Ambassador Kapoor, its quality here is not satisfactory. The problem is that Israel does not give visas to Indian cooks and sous-chefs, but only to expert Indian chefs, whose wages can only be paid by large hotels.

"If Indian cooks and sous-chefs are allowed to come," Kapoor says, "it will allow for a boom in Indian restaurants, which will benefit everyone. There is a big demand for this."


Because this is a significantly edited version of the original article published by YNet News at,7340,L-4915518,00.html, Brian Schrauger, Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Journal, is added as a co-author of this report.

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