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Punjab looking at great future partnerships with Israel: Amarinder

PTI     October 24, 2018

By Harinder Mishra Tel Aviv, Oct 24 (PTI) Punjab is looking at great future partnerships with Israel in key sectors like technology, agriculture, water management and security, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has said. Singh, who is on a five-day visit to Israel, said Punjab is already collaborating with Israel on agriculture in areas such as building centre of excellence and student exchange between Punjab Agricultural university (PAU) and Tel-Aviv university. "Last year, Punjab gave in-principle approval to a pilot project with Israel’s Agri-tech company, ARNA to provide technical know-how to farmers for boosting crop yield and farm income. Punjab has already established 3 centres of excellence with Israeli collaboration including Citrus centre of excellence at Hoshiarpur, centre of excellence in Vegetables at Jalandhar and Kartarpur.," he said. He said Punjab and Israel have agreed to explore technology transfer in the critical areas of agriculture, water conservation and security, besides agreeing to cooperate in the fields of security/ personnel training and social development. "All these are areas of critical importance to Punjab, which I have discussed with the Israeli leaders, including President Reuven Rivlin. We have already signed four important MoUs – in the field of water management and agricultural research and knowledge sharing. We are looking at great future partnerships in key sectors as technology, agriculture, water management, dairy, security and energy," he said. He said Punjab shares a lot with Israel, including similar climatic zones, historical ties and a warm friendship that has existed for a long time. "During World War-1, many Sikh soldiers, along with Indian soldiers of the British-Indian Army, fought in the region and in the Battle of Haifa under leadership of Major Dalpat Singh and liberated the city from the Ottoman Empire," he said. "I visited Haifa yesterday and realized the enormity of the contribution of Punjabis to that historic battle. In fact, I am told that Israel has recently issued a postage stamp commemorating the Sikh, Indian and British soldiers who showed exemplary courage in the battle of Haifa," Singh said. Singh on Wednesday sought Israel’s cooperation in enabling recycling of sewerage water in five major cities of the state, with the aim of checking pollution and generating water for irrigation purposes. Singh this morning held extensive talks in Jerusalem with Israel’s Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Yuval Steinitz, on the issue of water management to boost water conservation in Punjab, an area that has been accorded top priority by the visiting delegation from the state. Applauding that the fact that almost 95 pr cent of sewerage water was being recycled for agriculture in Israel, the Chief Minister expressed hopes that it could be replicated in the urban areas of his state as well. Singh shared with the Israeli minister the problems being faced by Punjab on the water front as a result of its depleting water table caused by melting glaciers. "While Punjab was power surplus, water resources remained a challenge for the state, which was trying to get out of the paddy-wheat cycle to save this precious resource", he said. Steinitz extended Israel's support highlighting "the close historical, cultural and business ties Israel has with India". The minister underlined the need for proper water management through assessment of the total requirement and availability. He pointed out that Israel was having its fifth year of drought but was managing its water needs through various measures, such as double desalination, to meet 80% of its domestic water need. Regulating water distribution was the crux of water management, Steinitz said stressing the need for educating people in this regard. Singh later visited various sites in the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Indian Hospice, an over 800-year-old memorial that is revered by Indian Muslims as a shrine in the memory of Hazrat Farid ud-Din Ganj Shakar, or Baba Farid as he is popularly known. The hospice was gifted by the locals to the Sufi saint, who hailed from Punjab’s Faridkot, and is believed to have stayed in Jerusalem for some time. Earlier, as part of his efforts to woo Israeli investment and business, the Chief Minister on Tuesday evening extended his government’s full support to Israeli companies ready to invest in the state across sectors. Addressing a seminar on ‘Investment Opportunities in Punjab’, organised in Tel Aviv by the Embassy of India in collaboration with the Israel-Asia Chamber of Commerce, the Chief Minister said that besides offering cheap power and single window clearances, the state has excellent communication and transport linkages to boost ease of business. Underlining Punjab’s central role in building India’s food security over the past 40 years, the Chief Minister said the depleting water table was now threatening to destroy the state’s agricultural prowess. He stressed the need to diversify crop cultivation in the state to get it out of the wheat-paddy cycle and that "Israel’s drip irrigation technology was a laudable initiative that Punjab could adopt to its advantage". The Chief Minister aggressively pushed for increased industrialization in Punjab, which had lost out on this front due to the partitions that had taken place in 1947, and then in 1966. "With their entrepreneurial spirit and strength, Punjabis could turn around the fortunes of the state with investment support from Israel and other nations," Singh asserted. PTI HM NSA NSA

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