NEW DELHI, Feb. 10: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday became the first Indian Prime Minister to make an official visit to Palestine. He was conferred the Grand Collar of the State of Palestine by President Mahmoud Abbas today, recognising his key contribution to promote relations between India and Palestine. On his felicitation, PM Modi said: “This is an honour for India and a symbol of Palestine’s friendship. I thank you on behalf of all Indians for this.”
PM Modi is on a three-nation trip to the Gulf and West Asia from February 9 to 12. He arrived in Ramallah, Palestine today via Jordan.
Subsequently, both PM Modi and President Abbas exchanged several agreements and issued a joint statement. In his speech, PM Modi said that “India hopes that soon Palestine will become a free country in a peaceful manner”.
“I have assured President Abbas that India is bound by a promise to take care of Palestinian people’s interests. India hopes that soon Palestine will become a free country in a peaceful manner,” said PM Modi, adding that diplomacy was the way forward to achieving regional stability and peace. “We hope for peace and stability in Palestine, we believe a permanent solution is possible with dialogue. Only diplomacy and farsightedness can set free from violence and baggage of the past. We know it is not easy but we need to keep trying as a lot is at stake,” he added.
Highlighting India’s resolve to keep Palestine as a foreign partner, PM Modi said: “India and Palestine’s relations have stood the test of time” and that “Palestine has always taken a top spot in our foreign policy”. PM Modi, who is on his maiden visit to Palestine, exchanged several agreements with the Palestinian government and announced several partnerships in areas like diplomacy, education as well as a promise to “take care” of the interests of the people of Palestine.
PM Modi’s visit to Palestine comes a month after he hosted his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in New Delhi. In that respect, it assumes greater significance. Historically, India had been a supporter of Palestine. However, strategic interests led to India building stronger ties, primarily military ties, with Israel, the country at conflict with Palestine.
Reasserting India’s position to keep Palestine as a key party in its foreign policy matters, PM Modi said, “India and Palestine’s relations have stood the test of time. Palestine has always taken a top spot in our foreign policy.”
“People of Palestine have continuously shown exemplary courage in extremely tough times, in spite of the fact that there was an unstable environment. The way you moved forward in such a situation is praiseworthy, we appreciate it,” he said.
PM Modi made announcements in his speech highlighting India’s intent to partner in Palestine’s development, educational engagement and regional stability. “India is aiding construction of an Institute of Diplomacy in Palestine. I am happy that we are moving forward with our developmental corporation forward during this visit,” he said, adding, that India will “double the exchange of students from this year taking it from 50 to 100.”
Prior to PM Modi’s address, President Abbas had said: “It is my honour to welcome you as a great guest, on your first historic visit to Palestine which holds, to you personally and to the people of India, sentiments of love and appreciation. Indian leadership has always stood by peace in Palestine.”
Indicating that Palestine would welcome a non-aligned position by India with respect to Israel and Palestine, Abbas said, “We have said and will say we are ready to engage in negotiations. We rely on India’s role as an international force and its role in the non-alignment movement and in the international fora, in a way that is conducive to desired peace in our region.”
“Here I would like to assert our commitment to political action and negotiations as means of achieving our national goals to freedom & independence in accordance with the two states’ relation along the lines of 1967,” he added. TIE