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Modi to be first Indian PM to visit Palestine

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on February 09, 2018 Published on February 09, 2018

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Palestine via Jordan this weekend will be etched in history as India will now officially de-hyphenate its relationship with Palestine and Israel in more ways than one.

Modi’s agenda will be driven by the fact that he had promised to offer “unwavering support” to the cause of Palestine during the visit of Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas here last year, “redefining the relationship” while taking it to the next level, sources told BusinessLine.

Prior to Modi, former President Pranab Mukherjee and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had visited Palestine in October 2015 and January 2016 respectively. This was followed by the visit of President Abbas to New Delhi in May 2017.

However, Modi will be the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Ramallah ever since India became one of the first countries to recognise the State of Palestine in 1988. In 1996, India opened its Representative Office to the Palestine Authority in Gaza, which later was shifted to Ramallah in 2003.

“You are aware that we have de-hyphenated our relations with Palestine and Israel and now we see them both as mutually independent and exclusive and as part of this policy, the Prime Minister is undertaking this visit,” said Bala Bhaskar, Joint Secretary (West Asia), Ministry of External Affairs.

Prime Minister Modi will meet President Abbas on February 10 in Ramallah. This will be the fourth meeting between the two leaders .

In order to deepen the engagement, India and Palestine had undertaken the first ever historic ministerial level joint commission meeting in November 2016. Both sides agreed to deepen their engagement in several areas including health, IT, tourism, youth affairs, sports, agriculture.

However, Modi’s visit to Ramallah comes at a time when the US has taken a stance to recognise the disputed territory of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel unilaterally while India chose to vote in favour of the UN General Assembly resolution opposing the move made by Washington.

Interestingly, unlike his visit to Israel in July last year, Prime Minister Modi will visit Palestine only for a few hours. He will leave for Abu Dhabi on Saturday night. This is contrary to his three-day visit to Israel where he had several engagements.

“Prime Minister Modi needs to made it clear that India gives out a strong political message that Jerusalem is under military control and is a disputed territory. India has to reject America’s designs on the issue,” said Former Ambassador of India to Saudi Arabia, Oman and the UAE, Talmiz Ahmad.

Modi will not enter Ramallah from Israel. He will take a chopper from Amman, Jordan to the Palestinian city. Before meeting President Abbas, the Prime Minister will visit Yasser Arafat’s museum and will pay tribute​ to the Palestine leader.

Published on February 09, 2018
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