Jerusalem: Terming Israel as an "important partner", India's top diplomat here counts counter-terrorism, multi-billion dollar defence arena, agriculture, water and energy as sectors that will see growing cooperation between the two countries in the coming years.

"There are several sectors in which India and Israel will be working together, are working together and which are critical for both the economies," Indian Ambassador to Israel Navtej Sarna told here as the two countries celebrate 20 years of diplomatic relations this year.

Though, diplomatic relations between Tel Aviv and New Delhi was set up only in 1992, the ties between the two have grown on a very fast pace.

From a mere USD 200 million bilateral trade in 1992, it has grown to about USD 5 billion last year. Not only that, the bilateral defence trade stands at approximately about USD 9 billion and is growing at a very fast pace.

Tel Aviv has emerged as the second biggest defence supplier to New Delhi after Russia. From a buyer-seller relationship, both India and Israel are now trying to branch out to joint research and development initiatives.

Both the countries are in discussion on a Free Trade Agreement and official believe that once it is signed, trade figures will see an exponential jump.

"We are in the business of making partnership with large number of countries which help us to actualize potential of our people and enable us to grow at the rate we are growing or even faster," Sarna said.

"In that sense Israel is an important partner, is a source of excellent technology for us," he said. Speaking on the sectors that will see growth in the coming years, Sarna said: Israel is doing some "excellent work" in the field of agriculture, which can be applied and is being applied in the Indian agricultural landscape.

"Water management is another area and Israel has done wonders with virtually no water or little water. They have worked in water management, drip irrigation and water desalination. Hi-tech industry in both countries is growing in both the countries very fast," the Ambassador said.

"We have other areas of interest, security, homeland security, counter-terrorism efforts," he said.

The importance of Israel can be gauged from the fact that the Indian embassy here is one of the biggest of it’s in the world in terms of staff and those who are hired for specific projects, sources said.

In the security front, Israel has emerged as a major source of expertise, training and equipments for both private sector and the government back in India, especially after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, they said.

The area of cooperation in defence front includes air defence systems and missiles besides fire arms. Modernisation of tanks and fighter aircraft is also another area where cooperation has increased in recent past.

Another sector that shows signs of growth potential of growth is energy and wind technology.

Sources said Israel has very limited natural resources but recently there have been significant discoveries of several huge natural gas sites off-shore Israel, in Tamar, Dalit and Leviathan.

With the Tamar find, Israel is expected to fulfill its gas demand for the next three decades, and export gas to Europe and Asia. Indian oil and natural gas companies are considering participating in these exploration ventures, sources said.

ONGC and GAIL have already expressed their interest and made some trips to Israel, sources said.

Even as defence, security seems to steal away the spotlight from other sectors, sources said one of the most prolific growths has been made in agriculture and irrigation.

Centres of excellence in agriculture field have been set up by Israel in Haryana, Rajasthan and Maharastra and efforts are on to open more centers in other states including Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.

"Israel is an expert in dry land farming and drip irrigation. We have seen very unusual things happening like growing olive sin Rajasthan and pomegranate in Maharashtra," a source said.

Meanwhile, bringing in fresh perspective to the growing ties between the two countries, sources point out that reaching to India is also important for Israel because of the huge market that New Delhi provides.

(Agencies)