Israel has extended its footprint towards India's northeast with the appointment of Joyshree Das Verma as honorary consul in the region. Based in Assam, she will oversee the embassy's outreach on Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Tripura and Sikkim.
Although little bigger than one of the smaller north eastern states, Israel has a presence across the country, with consulates in Mumbai and Bengaluru and another honorary consuler in Kolkata.
Announcing the appointment, ambassador of Israel in India Ron Malka said, “The relations between our two countries are growing and expanding rapidly. We are now going to take it forward and increase our presence in north east India.''
The embassy sees great potential for cooperation in agriculture and technology. Malka visited Meghalaya, Assam and Tripura last November and discussed areas of collaboration with the chief ministers. These include water management, agriculture, tourism, horticulture, fisheries and dairy. He had also laid the foundation stone of a Centre of Excellence in Vegetables in Khetri, Assam. The first Indo-Israeli Centre of Excellence was inaugurated in Mizoram in 2018, and is a platform for addressing challenges via applicable research and introduction of relevant, innovative Israeli agro-technologies, tailored to the needs of local farmers, said the embassy.
There is an interesting community, largely around Mizoram, but with a presence in nearby Bangladesh and Myanmar, too, called the Bnei Menashe, which were accepted as part of a lost tribe of Israel around 2005. These members, once they have been formally converted into Judaism, are allowed aliya,or immigration, into Israel. There were around 10,000 such individuals, of which around 3,000 have already migrated to Israel. In December 2020 itself, 114 newly inducted Jews from the community entered Israel, even as the pandemic rages on. As of Census, 2011, there are just around 5,000 Jews in India, though locals say there are around 20,000 in Mizoram itself.
Israel, however, sees the potential in the northeast beyond just the religious linkages. In an earlier interview with this correspondent, Malka had said that tourism has a huge scope, what with the large number of Israelis flocking to India every year. Their holiday destinations are usually Goa and Manali, but the north east offered potential for a new destination. Horticulture is big in these states, and despite their wet months, water management is a huge issue. In fact, Mawsynram, the wettest spot on earth, often has water wars during the dry winters, since there is scant stored water. Israel is a leader in both water management as well as horticulture.