Need to Expand India’s Strategic Partnership With Israel

by August 31, 2018 0 comments

Need to Expand India’s Strategic Partnership With IsraelSimultaneous expansion of the scope of strategic partnership with Israel and efforts towards improving human development indices at home should be India’s priority.

In 25 years of full diplomatic contact between India and Israel, bilateral trade between the two nations grew from $200 million in 1992 to 5.02 billion in 2017. The figures exclude defence purchases. Over the past two years, mutual visits of Indian and Israeli Heads of State has resulted in several agreements but the one that should be the most exciting is on innovation and entrepreneurship. An ‘Israel-India Bridge to Innovation’ program was held from July 23-27 in India. Both nations are working together for the setting up of dozens of centres of excellence across India. Israel and India would be opening an innovation fund, under which the two countries will contribute four million dollar each annually for a period of five years to develop India’s innovation and human capital capability. Israel is fast becoming India’s innovation and human capital development partner.

It is critical for India to create opportunities for youth that can drive economic growth through innovation and entrepreneurship. India can learn a lot about the art and science of developing human capital from Israel.

Both nations should expand the scope of strategic partnership and work towards improving India’s human development index (HDI), which places Israel in the category of “very highly developed” among the top 20 nations. Israel spends five per cent of its GDP on innovation alone. This says something about its focus on people development. Israel today is home to eight of the top 500 world universities. Technion Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute and York Institute for Entrepreneurship figure among the best entrepreneurship development institutes in the world. The World Happiness Survey 2016 indicated that nations that emphasise people development are doing economically well. Israel’s high ranking on that scale is a living example. Israeli human capability development emphasises on soft skills, inquisitiveness, exploration and use of technology. This is an area where India can work closely with Israel to scale up its people’s capability towards sustainable economic growth.

Israel offers an interesting learning perspective in building human resource capacity, using a combination of training and technology. The exposure to Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) at the age of 17 years is ground for potential entrepreneurship development. The idea is to give the recruits an overview of all major IDF branches so that they understand both technology and military needs. The connection between technology, people skills, innovation and resource optimisation is particularly fruitful. It provides the students a broad range of knowledge that gives them critical ability for analysis and problem-solving.

The 2017 NASDAQ-listed Fortune 500 startups report indicates that a large number of the listed CEOs have an IDF background. Every major technology organisation has a research and innovation centre in Israel to take advantage of the country’s talent. Training develops a cultural ecosystem of quality, discipline, health and fitness on which innovation is nurtured. This is achieved by handing them mission after mission with progressively minimal guidance, thereby enhancing their ability to think and act. Assignments range from the mundane to the strategic, from organising small conferences to penetrating a telecommunication network of a live terrorist cell. This ability to work on cross-disciplinary solution to military problems plays a vital developmental role. This diversity of experience and knowledge plays a key role in making the Israeli youth adaptable to change and drive enterprise innovation. Israel focused on developing human resource capability instead of focusing on ‘scoring and passing exam model’. It has evolved its own human resource development model based on its national priorities and needs to solve its problems.

In recent years, a large number of Indian scholars have opted to do research in Israel, and almost 10 percent of the foreign students in Israeli universities are Indians. India’s ability to create quality leaders at different levels for different spears will play a crucial role in India’s geopolitical standing. Quality of our talent pool will define our geopolitical standing.

India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development projects stated that this year, the number of youth in the age group of 15-29 in the workforce is 153 million. This number would rise to 156 million in 2020 and to 158 million by 2025. Defence industry in India will emerge as one of the major employers requiring diversity of talent and skills. Of the 14 million people that enter the workforce every year, barely two million are formally and professionally trained. A huge upgrade in skilling is an obvious requirement and Israel is a good option for India to collaborate for developing Indian talent. The current system of education, especially at the school and college levels, is not helping the youth to be more inquisitive, build a higher level of Emotional Quotient and develop social intelligence, and most importantly, a culture of discipline and patriotism.

During his India visit, Prime Minister Netanyahu had talked about a “T square concept” collaboration between Indian talent and Israel’s technological knowledge, pointing towards a great opportunity for both nations to work together to assist in the field of research and setting incubation lab for startups. Israel’s assistance in i-create in Ahmedabad is a right step in this direction. India’s human resource development approach needs to shift from passing exams and scoring marks to creative learning, by creating an ecosystem of analysis and problem-solving. An extensive focus on scoring marks and passing exams is a deterrent for developing the ability to think and analyse. The new ecosystem should include sporting activity, basic military training and inter-state student exchange programmes. Such exposure transcends social, economic and regional disparities, creating a pool of young talent to fuel national growth.

There is a joke that a terrorist organisation once sent camel dung to the Israeli Prime Minister as gift to humiliate him. Netanyahu, when he got the gift, sent a return gift. It was a computer chip with a note saying “any leader can only gift the best his people produce”. India and Israel are democratic countries with common strategic interests. They must collaborate for innovation and entrepreneurship development to play a vital role in shaping the world.

Writer: Anirban R. Banerjee

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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