Ramallah (West Bank): Prime Minister Narendra Modi Saturday met Mahmoud Abbas on a historic visit to Palestine during which the Palestinian President sought India’s support for a multi-country mechanism to achieve a “just and desired peace” with Israel in accordance with the two-state solution.
Modi reassured his country’s support for the Palestinian cause while Abbas said that Palestinians relied on India’s role as an international force to bring peace in this region.
“I have assured President Abbas that India is bound by a promise to take care of Palestinian people’s interests,” Modi said in a joint address to the media along with Abbas following a bilateral meeting.
“India hopes that soon Palestine will come a free country in a peaceful manner,” he stated.
President Abbas accorded a red carpet welcome to Modi, the first Indian Prime Minister to make an official visit to Palestine, in an official ceremony at the presidential compound, also known as Muqata’a, in Ramallah – the Palestinian seat of government.
At the joint press statement, President Abbas acknowledged that the Indian leadership has always stood by peace in Palestine.
Abbas said he had “fruitfull and constructive” talks with Prime Minister Modi and he updated the Indian leader on the overall developing situation in Palestine and in the region.
He said Palestine is ready to engage in negotiations to achieve freedom and independence in accordance with the two- state solution along the lines of 1967 and internationally legitimate resolutions so that both Palestine and Israel can co-exist in peace and security, provided that East Jerusalem is the capital of the state of Palestine.
Abbas said the formation of a multi-lateral mechanism that is produced by an international peace convention is the most ideal way to broker negotiations with Israel, which is India’s strategic partner and among its top arms suppliers.
“We rely on India’s role as an international voice of great standing and weigh through its historical role in the Non-Aligned Movement and in all international forum and its increasingly growing power on the strategic and economic levels, in a way that is conducive to just and desired peace in our region,” President Abbas said.
The two-state solution envisions independent Israeli and Palestinian states coexisting side by side peacefully. The Palestinians see East Jerusalem as their future capital.
Prime Minister Modi assured President Abbas that India is committed to the Palestinian people’s interests.
“Friendship between India and Palestine has stood the test of time. The people of Palestine have shown remarkable courage in the face of several challenges. India will always support Palestine’s development journey,” Modi said, adding that India is hopeful of peace and stability in the region.
Prime Minister Modi said India hopes for Palestine to soon become a sovereign and independent country in a peaceful environment through dialogue.
“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,” Modi said.
The two sides signed agreements worth $50 million. The agreement includes setting up of a super speciality hospital worth $30 million in Beit Sahur and construction of a centre for empowering women worth $5 million.
Three agreements in the education sector worth $5 million and for procurement of equipment and machinery for the National Printing Press in Ramallah were also signed.
President Abbas also conferred the ‘Grand Collar of the State of Palestine’ on Prime Minister Modi, recognising his key contribution to promote ties between India and Palestine.
The Grand Collar is highest order given to foreign dignitaries — Kings, Heads of State/Government and persons of similar rank.
Earlier, the two leaders exchanged hugs and stood for the national anthem of the two countries and then inspected the guard of honour before their bilateral talks.
Archbishop of Catholic Church, Poulos Marcuzzo, and religious leaders of the Al-Aqsa mosque were also at the Muqata’a to greet Modi.
Modi flew in a Jordanian army helicopter straight from Amman to Ramallah, where he was received by his Palestinian counterpart Rami Hamdallah. Prime Minister Modi’s chopper was escorted by choppers from Israel Air Force.
“This is a historic visit that will lead to stronger bilateral cooperation,” Modi said shortly after landing.
Soon after his arrival, Prime Minister Modi visited the Mausoleum of Yasser Arafat in Ramallah and laid a wreath at the grave of the iconic Palestinian leader. He was accompanied by his Palestinian counterpart Hamdallah.
The mausoleum was unveiled on November 10, 2007 and is located adjacent to the Palestinian Presidential compound, also known as Muqata’a here.
After paying homage to Arafat, Modi took a short tour of the Arafat Museum located adjacent to the mausoleum.
During his maiden visit to Israel last year, Modi did not travel to Ramallah. His standalone visit to Israel had led to analysts questioning the future of the Indo-Palestine ties.
This time Modi skipped Israel in a clear message that India is de-hyphenating its ties with Israel and Palestine.
Modi’s visit to Palestine comes amid heightened tensions in the region after US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
The unilateral US decision to declare Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was challenged at the UN General Assembly where 128 nations, including India, voted to turn down the move as “null and void”.
Trump’s decision to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s capital angered the Palestinians, sparked protests in the Middle East and raised concern that it could further destabilise the region.
Though India has shied away from becoming a party in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the Palestinian leader on several occasions has stressed on a possible role for New Delhi in the Middle East peace process.
India believes in a two-state solution in which both Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist peacefully.
The two-state solution envisions independent Israeli and Palestinian states coexisting side by side peacefully. The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as their future capital.
PTI (With inputs from IANS)