As Nadav Eshcar, Israeli Ambassador to Laos and Vietnam, concludes his five-year diplomatic mission in the region, he speaks with the Laotian Times to discuss the warming relations between Israel and Laos.
Fresh from a farewell visit with the Vice President of Laos and other high-ranking officials, Mr. Nadav sat down for a frank and heartfelt discussion on his hopes for the two Asian nations.
“There is a lot of potential for the development of relations between Laos and Israel in a variety of areas,” said the ambassador, beginning a wide-ranging discussion that focused on several fields.
He began by noting that Israel and Laos are geographically separated and situated in very different environments; Israel is a dry, desert country, while Laos is mountainous and rich in water resources.
In Israel, where water scarcity makes it challenging to produce food, efficiency-oriented innovations, such as drip irrigation, have proven a useful method for conserving water.
According to the ambassador, Israeli experts and scientists have developed innovative technologies to assist sustainable agriculture in the harsh climate of Israel. Such techniques will likely aid other countries in responding to the conditions of global climate change.
“I strongly believe that Israeli technologies could be used for the benefit of Laos. They can make agricultural work in Laos more successful.”
Another significant area of cooperation between Israel and Laos is the provision of agricultural vocational training for Lao students, with programs covering agronomy as well as business management and marketing for farmers.
The ambassador also spoke with the Minister of Agriculture about renewing the Internships in Agriculture program in Israel during his visit to Laos. The program, which has enabled Lao students to work for pay and study concurrently under Israeli experts, has been suspended since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, for Laos and Israel to deepen their economic cooperation, both countries need to “get to know each other,” as Mr. Nadvav phrases it, in order to encourage investment in each other’s countries.
Mr. Nadav cited tourism as one area with high potential, wherein many young Israelis travel to Laos after completing military service. The highest number of Israeli tourists traveling to Laos occurred in 2019, when in excess of 7,000 Israelis traveled to the country.
Mr. Nadav suggested that Laos should take advantage of social media to better promote itself as a tourism destination to Israel and other countries.
On the topic of development, he said that Israel supports Laos with a development model based on knowledge transfer over monetary assistance, providing experts for training and collaboration.
“Our assistance model is different from other nations. Because our country has a lot of leading experts in various fields, we prefer to provide know-how and training instead of monetary aid,” noted Nadav.
“There is a cliche about giving someone a fish that will feed them for a day, while the means to catch fish will feed them forever. It may be a cliche but we really agree with this!” he says with a smile.
True to its word, Israel signed an agreement with the Mekong River Commission (MRC) last year to provide technical expertise and capacity building in areas such as drought management, agriculture, irrigation, and other areas relevant to addressing the plight of the Mekong River.
Additionally, Israel is one of the world’s leading dairy producers, and it hopes to launch programs to help Laos’ dairy industry grow, with the potential of becoming a regional exporter in the future.
Meanwhile, as Laos has recently faced challenges resulting from rising prices of fertilizers due to the conflict in Ukraine, Mr. Nadav speculated that as a country with a large fertilizer manufacturing industry, Israel could even help Laos access cheaper fertilizers.
“These are just a few areas that the two countries should urgently explore,” he said.
But the biggest barrier to bilateral diplomacy, Mr. Nadav noted, is simply a lack of awareness of one another. He identified the need for the establishment of a permanent mechanism of communication between the two governments.
“I wish to see warmer relations between Laos and Israel, more leaders visiting each other, and faster decision-making on cooperation,” Mr. Nadav noted.
“There should be more consultation visits and foreign minister meetings. More ministerial-level visits to Israel are needed in order for Lao people to better understand Israel. And after we understand each other better, we can look forward to working together more closely,” he said.
In light of recent disruptions in global trade networks, there has never been a better time to explore and establish deeper cooperation with new partners.
In Mr. Nadav’s view, it is now up to the governments and peoples of Laos and Israel to continue enhancing relations, and nurture a long-lasting friendship.