Indian PM lays wreath on arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat's grave

Saul Bowman
February 11, 2018

Ramallah:India's improved relations with Israel could actually benefit Palestine, experts said here, underlining that the Palestinian leadership saw an opportunity in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit in reviving the peace process with Israel.

Narendra Modi is the first India Prime Minister on an official visit to Palestine.

President Abbas received Modi who said that India hopes for Palestine to soon become a sovereign and independent country in a peaceful environment. In December, India backed a United Nations resolution that opposed the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

India has consistently voted in favour of resolutions supporting the Palestinian cause at worldwide forums, an issue that has bothered strategic partner Israel.

Modi's three-hour stop in Ramallah, the first by an Indian prime minister, was being seen as New Delhi's bid to balance its blossoming ties with Israel. He will also visit a temple constructed by Indian community in that country.

Abbas gave Modi the highest medal of the state of Palestine as a sign of valuing friendship with India. He also expressed honest thanks to Jordan for logistical support extended for smooth facilitation for his Palestine visit.

The Palestinians have rejected the US sponsorship of peace talks with Israel in the wake of Washington's decision to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in early December.

Speaking on India's contribution to strengthen the bilateral ties, Modi said India is aiding the construction of an Institute of Diplomacy in Palestine.

The visit was a delicate balance act for Modi after his strong embracement of Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his visit, again a first by an Indian PM, to the country a year ago.

In response, PM Modi thanked Palestine President Abbas for the Grand Collar of the state of Palestine conferred on him.

"We count on India, an worldwide force on a strategic and economic level, to help Palestinians achieve a just peace in our region", Abbas said at the press conference.

Modi is expected to be meeting with Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the crown price of Abu Dhabi the deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces, on Saturday evening.

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) headquarters, the Emirates Palace, the HBZ stadium and Dubai's Burjkhaleefa & Dubai Frame Frame, are all lit up with colours of the Indian flag.

Kumar noted that the GCC is now India s largest regional trading bloc and accounts for nearly 20 percent of its bilateral trade.

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