Hyderabad: On the sidelines of a conference marking her maiden visit to Hyderabad, Mrs Rony Yedidia-Clein, Deputy Chief of Mission of Israel in India, spoke to Deccan Chronicle about the ever-strengthening relationship between the two countries, how the diplomatic and bilateral engagement, which began thirty years ago, was widening in scope and diversity, and the extraordinary opportunities ahead for businesses and people-to-people contacts.
Mrs Yedidia-Clein, who started her diplomatic career in 1994, and previously served Istanbul, Moscow, New England and the United Kingdom, started her fifth major stint when she joined Mission Israel in India and took her posting in New Delhi in August last year.
With a passion for harnessing diplomacy and international relations to help combat climate change, Mrs Clein said, “Combatting climate change is a big piece in the Israel-India relationship. There are several areas of it – reforestation, shifting to more eco-friendly and sustainable farming practices, conservation of water. Today, climate change is a global imperative and every nation has to work for it.”
Wearing a bright yellow Indian saree, Mrs Clein, filled with energy despite a busy day’s packed schedule, which included a global investor’s conference, several visits including to the IIIT, and later on, to Golconda Fort, said, “sadly we could not find time to visit the Charminar because of traffic.”
Israel has so far established 30 centres of excellence on agriculture and water in different parts of India, and twelve more are in the offing, she said.
“In Lior Assaf, we have the world’s first water expert diplomat, who is in India and travelling across the country to identify zone-specific solutions and offer customised solutions to different states,” revealed the charge d'affaires at the Embassy of Israel.
Looking back three decades, she said, “our bilateral relationships began 30 years ago on a low key. India was part of the Non-Aligned Movement then, and the world was just emerging out of a Cold War. Given a large part of the initial Indo-Israel relationship being centred around defence, we could not speak much about it. There was not much visibility. But over the last decade, it has changed and is very visible. The scope has widened, the variety has grown. Today, people across Israel know how much Indians love our country and people. There is a growing appetite for strengthening our bonds.”
On trade, she revealed that while the $4 billion a year trade was just the beginning, it was important that it was balanced. “We are a relationship of equals, imports and exports balance out. Hence, we are looking at increasing bilateral trade.”
At her level, she hopes to interest more India-headquartered MNCs to look at setting up a house in Israel and scout for wide-ranging opportunities.
“Academic innovation, technology and cultural exchange are all part of our current focus. I hope we can invite more Indian students to come and pursue educational programs in medicine, engineering and other streams in Israel,” she said.
Responding to a question on the efficacy of diplomacy, she said, “for almost every problem, diplomacy is the best and perhaps only way for nations to solve problems. Diplomacy is the art of bringing people together and getting them to talk to sort out issues – of any kind. Diplomacy has made the world a more peaceful, better world.”
On the mandatory Indian food question, she adds with a laugh, “I have started eating Indian food and it is very tasty. Problem is to resist eating too much.”
“India is on top of the must-visit tourism list of most citizens of Israel. Post Covid, several people of all ages and across the tourist spectrum – adventure, historical and heritage, health – will all come to India,” she promises.
“The next year, both countries will celebrate 30 years of relationship, marked with several high-level visits and lots of exchange programs,” she added....