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NEW DELHI: India’s latest agricultural reform legislations will empower farmers and give them more options to sell their produce and earn maximum profits, Israeli envoy to India Ron Malka has said, citing his country’s experience.

He said the Indian farmers would realise the real benefits of these reform measures once “the dust settles”.

Asserting that collaboration in the agriculture sector is one of the main “glues” that bind the Indo-Israel partnership, Malka said the new farm laws can further deepen ties as India can adopt Israel’s technology of using digital platforms to connect farmers directly with consumers.

In an interview to PTI, the Israeli ambassador said the efficiency of the agriculture sector as a whole will increase with the new legislations and consumers will also enjoy better and fresh crops.

“In Israel, there are no middlemen. There is full transparency and farmers are connected to customers. This is working very efficiently with very advanced digital platforms,” Malka said.

“Once the Indian market is open and every farmer can sell to anyone they want…they can adopt these platforms (developed by Israel) by making necessary adjustments for local market conditions,” he said.

In the first phase, this kind of system gives farmers the ability to get what they deserve and in the second phase, it becomes a very efficient and powerful planning tool that helps in the supply-demand coordination, Malka said.

Asked about his views on how these legislations can empower farmers in India, the Israeli envoy said, “Yes, I believe that (these measures will help farmers). The efficiency of the agriculture sector as a whole (will increase). The consumers are also going to enjoy better crops.”

Asked about apprehensions raised by a section of the people that the new farm laws would reduce the bargaining power of farmers vis-a-vis corporates, he said, “I don’t think that would be the case.”

Malka said farmers probably still don’t know the right know-how to adjust to the new system and will face some problems initially, but in the long term when the “dust settles” this is going to make the system more efficient and it will bring in much more options and opportunities for the farmers.

The reforms will eventually make the system more efficient and profitable for the farmers, the Israeli envoy said.

Malka cited Israel’s experience for his assertions.

“It will take some time to do some adjustments as the current system has been in place for a long time, but once the dust settles and we get a new equilibrium, it will be for the benefit of farmers, customers and of course the overall Indian economy,” he said.

The three farm bills — the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020 — were passed by Parliament recently. Subsequently, President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the bills.

The Congress, many other opposition parties and several farmers organisations have been protesting against these legislations, claiming that these will harm the interests of farmers and benefit corporates, a claim denied by the government.

The Centre has asserted that these new laws will be beneficial for farmers and will increase their income.

Noting that agriculture is the “backbone of the Indian economy”, Malka said there was immense potential for collaboration between the two countries in this sector.

“Our most successful collaboration on agriculture is with India. We have now 29 centres of excellence in agriculture functioning all over India. In one year, 1,47,000 farmers were trained in these Indo-Israel centres of excellence,” he said.

These centres of excellence showcase the most advanced Israeli technologies and practices in agriculture, he said.

“We are going to expand these centres of excellence to ‘areas of excellence’. As a concept, 55-60 villages around each centre of excellence will be taken up to expand the know-how, knowledge, systems and practices that we bring to them. And also to add to it our water-related technologies,” he said.

Millions of farmers around India have got to know of the Israeli technology and their lives have become much easier because of that, he noted.

“…In Israel we have so many advanced digital platforms to connect farmers and consumers. We work on all of the value chains,” he said while asserting that these technologies can be of great use to farmers in India now as the markets would open up for them and they would get what they truly deserve.

Explaining the online platforms that have connected farmers and consumers directly in Israel, Malka said if one wanted to order cucumbers and tomato for salad, for example, the person could go to the internet and directly order the same.

He said farmers in Israel get the best price for their produce without middlemen cornering any cut.

Malka said this kind of system and technology could be adopted by India after some adjustments and it can take it directly from Israel rather than inventing such platforms.

Such online platforms would also help in understanding the market as well as demand and supply, which in turn would help in planning and do farming much more efficiently, he said.

“You can even recommend to farmers what to grow and when to grow and you can assure them a minimum price because you understand the market,” he said.

So, one can tell the farmers to go for tomatoes instead of cucumber next year, after looking at the market demand, the Israeli envoy said.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu reviewed initiatives by the two countries in a host of sectors, including agriculture, water and innovation.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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India calls for complete ceasing of support to terrorist forces in Middle East




UNITED NATIONS: India has called on all concerned parties to completely stop supporting terrorist forces, like the ISIS, while urging all stakeholders in the Middle East to work constructively for peace, stability and development.

India underscored that it has invested considerably in the peace and stability of the region by deploying its personnel as part of UN peacekeeping forces, through humanitarian assistance, development cooperation, capacity building, and will continue contributing towards peace-building in the Middle East.

“India calls on concerned parties to completely stop support to terrorist forces, like ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and others. India also urges all parties in the region to work constructively and in good faith to promote peace, stability and development for the benefit of all people in the Middle East,” India said in a written statement on Monday on the Security Council’s open debate on ‘The Situation in the Middle East’.

India said the truce between Israel and the Hamas has eased the humanitarian situation in Gaza and expressed hope that the temporary truce is converted into a permanent ceasefire, which can save precious human lives on both sides and create a conducive environment for talks.

“It is an unfortunate reality that the interlinked and mutually reinforcing challenges faced by the people of the Middle East have not yet been resolved. Political instability, long-festering conflicts, sectarian divides, issue of refugees and terrorism continue to plague the region. The COVID-pandemic has only exacerbated the threats posed by these challenges,” India said.

The statement made India’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador T S Tirumurti, will go as part of the official record of the Council.

India said it appreciates the agreement between Fatah and Hamas for holding Parliamentary and Presidential elections and also elections for the Palestinian National Council, which will help fulfill the democratic aspirations of the Palestinian people.

India also welcomed the agreements for normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. “India has always supported peace and stability in West Asia, which is our extended neighbourhood,” India said.

Further, India said the commencement of discussions on the disputed border between Israel and Lebanon is a significant development, expressing hope that this will provide an opportunity to resolve the longstanding issue between the two countries.

India highlighted that Palestinian aspirations for a sovereign and independent state are yet to be fulfilled and stressed that New Delhi has been unwavering in its commitment to the Palestinian cause and continues to remain supportive of a peaceful negotiated resolution of the Palestinian issue.

“India has supported the two-state solution as a just and acceptable solution to the conflict. Establishment of a Palestinian State living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, within mutually agreed borders should be achieved through negotiations directly by the two parties,” India said adding that any stalemate could strengthen the hands of extremists and shut the door to cooperation thereby jeopardising the security, stability and prosperity of the people on both sides and the region.

Accordingly, India urged Israel and Palestine to resume direct negotiations at the earliest and called upon the international community to take concrete steps towards resuming and facilitating these negotiations quickly.

India noted that the decade-long armed conflict in Syria has claimed over 400,000 lives, displaced 6.2 million people internally and compelled another 6.3 million people to seek shelter in neighbouring countries.

“While we are heartened to see return of normalcy to major parts of the country, we are also reminded of the enormous resources that would be required to provide urgent humanitarian aid, rebuild infrastructure, enable return of the refugees and restore a normal and dignified life of all Syrians,” the statement said.

India said in the statement that it is not only contributing to the return of normalcy and rebuilding of Syria, but has also consistently called for a comprehensive and peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict through a Syrian-led dialogue, taking into account the legitimate aspirations of the people of Syria.

India voiced concern over the security and humanitarian situation in Yemen and said the recent exchange of prisoners by the Government of Yemen and Ansar Allah, who had been detained in connection with the conflict, is a welcome development.

“India hopes that the parties will take more confidence building measures to provide the necessary impetus for the full implementation of the Stockholm Agreement,” the statement read.

India also hopes for peace and stability in Iraq with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

India noted that in the aftermath of the August blast that brought destruction to vast swathes of Beirut and inflicted heavy loss of lives, India stood in solidarity with Lebanon.

New Delhi sent emergency humanitarian aid of over 58 metric tons to Beirut. “We look forward to the swift formation of a new government that can offer political stability and also tackle the grave socio-economic challenges being faced by the people of Lebanon,” the statement said.

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US, India must focus on threat posed by China: Secretary of state Mike Pompeo




NEW DELHI: US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Tuesday stressed on the need for Washington and New Delhi to work together to counter the threat posed by Beijing to “security and freedom”

Pompeo’s comment came during the crucial 2+2 dialogue between India and the US, which saw the signing of a crucial defence agreement between the two countries.

“There is much more work to do for sure. We have a lot to discuss today: Our cooperation on the pandemic that originated in Wuhan, to confronting the Chinese Communist Party’s threats to security and freedom to promoting peace and stability throughout the region,” Pompeo said during talks with defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar. Pompeo was joined by defence secretary Mark Esper.

Esper too focussed on the apparent threat posed by China, specifically in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Our focus now must be on institutionalising and regularising our cooperation to meet the challenges of the day and uphold the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific well into the future,” Esper said.

The comments assume significance as India is locked in a border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.

In June this year, 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of PLA soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, hardening the mood in India against China and driving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to seek closer military ties with the United States.

In the US, President Donald Trump has made being tough on China a key part of his campaign to secure a second term in next week’s presidential election and Pompeo has been trying to bolster allies to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

This month, India invited Australia to join naval drills it holds each year with the United States and Japan, brushing off Chinese concerns that the exercises destabilise the region.

(With inputs from agencies)

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defence Secretary Mark Esper meet NSA Doval




NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark T Esper on Tuesday held talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, covering key aspects of growing strategic ties between the two countries.

Issues of strategic importance were discussed at the meeting, sources said.

The meeting took place ahead of the third edition of 2+2 ministerial dialogue. Esper and Pompeo arrived here on Monday for the crucial talks aimed at further boosting the defence and security ties between the two countries.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held separate talks with their US counterparts on Monday.

Earlier on Tuesday, both the top US administration officials visited the National War Memorial and paid tributes to India’s fallen heroes.

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