Punjab Chief minister Amarinder Singh has been invited by Israeli envoy to India Daniel Carmon to visit his country to discuss about enhancing cooperation in the various areas. The Israeli Ambassador met the chief minister today and invited him to visit his country in September. During the meeting, the two sides explored the areas critical for development and progress of Punjab and on which they both can cooperate, an official spokesperson. Singh suggested that his delegation to Israel could include some progressive farmers, to which the Israeli delegation said they were looking forward to the chief minister's visit, he said. The CM's visit could follow Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to that country and they offered to prepare a tailor-made agenda to ensure a continued meaningful dialogue, he added. The delegation invited the chief minister to coincide his visit with WATEC Israel - an international professional exhibition to be held in Tel Aviv from September 12-14, which would offer a platform to showcase latest technologies in water and environment. While defence is on top priority for cooperation between Israel and Punjab, the chief minister is also keen to use Israeli expertise to promote horticulture, dairy farming, bee-keeping, irrigation and water conservation in the state, the spokesperson said. Beside working on a strategic partnership on water conservation and agriculture, the two sides also decided to set up a joint working group on agriculture, horticulture and dairy farming, he added. This was the second meeting between Singh and the Israeli envoy since the former took over as Punjab chief minister. At their last meeting in April, the two sides had agreed to explore the possibility of setting up a Punjab-Israel working group for continuous dialogue on issues of mutual interest, with the concurrence of the Government of India. The two decided today to put in place a robust mechanism to set up the working group, said the spokesperson. The Israeli envoy evinced keen interest in setting up more centres of excellence to promote agriculture diversification across the state after the success of its two such existing centres at Kartarpur (Jalandhar) and Hoshiarpur. He said these centres had been instrumental in introducing high yielding varieties of fruits, vegetables, new farm practices under controlled conditions, net farming, drip and sprinkler irrigation. Carmon informed the chief minister that two more such centres were in pipeline, one in floriculture and another in bee-keeping, to boost allied farming in the state. He sought the CM's personal intervention to get both these projects expedited from the Ministry of External Affairs. The two also agreed on the need to incentivise private companies to collaborate on such projects, with the chief minister urging the Israeli delegation to showcase their technology to Indian private companies to motivate them to join in the government efforts. Private companies could be engaged initially to work on a pilot project, which could pave the way for large-scale engagement and funding of such projects, Singh suggested, underlining the need for a quantum shift in technology to promote farming as a viable source of income for the government. He asked his chief principal secretary to rope in key players in agritech for value addition to supplement the income of the farmers, who were passing through acute financial crisis due to squeezed margins and low returns on account of the near stagnant minimun support price (MSP). Expressing concern over the depleting water table, Singh sought Israeli support in helping farmers adopt innovative techniques in drip irrigation and hydroponics to tackle the water problem. Model farms should be created to help create awareness for farmers, he said, emphasizing the need for promoting vegetables and floriculture marketing as a means of boosting agriculture income. The chief minister suggested exploring the possibility of converting the Mandi Board building into a market to enable seamless marketing of produce by the farmers. Responding to the request of the visiting envoy to join MASHAV- Israel's Agency for International Development Cooperation programme, Captain Amarinder asked the chief secretary to explore the possibility to chalk out an action plan for training in different short term courses offered by the Israeli government to further augment Human Resource Development, besides enhancing capacity building programmes.
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