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India’s Modi heads to Palestinian territories to balance ties with Israel

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (L) arrives with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi prior to a meeting and signing ceremony in New Delhi on May 16, 2017. (AFP)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is heading to the Palestinian territories and the Gulf countries on Friday to bolster long-standing political and economic ties.

India was one of the earliest champions of the Palestinian cause but in recent years turned to Israel for high-tech military equipment and anti-terrorism cooperation.

Modi made the first trip to Israel by an Indian prime minister last year followed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's visit to India last month.

But Indian officials said India continued to support the Palestinian cause and that Modi's visit is aimed at helping build up the Palestinians' capacity in the health, information technology and education areas.

“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,” B. Bala Bhaskar, a joint secretary in the Indian foreign ministry, said.

The two sides are building a India-Palestinian technology park in Ramallah, the Palestinians’ seat of government, which will develop IT expertise and generate employment.

 PM Modi, Jordan king discuss Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Modi arrived in Jordan on Friday and will travel to Ramallah, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, on Saturday.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II has discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his role as custodian of major Muslim and Christian shrines in contested Jerusalem with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

 

A palace statement says the two met on Friday, a day before Modi’s first-ever visit to the West Bank.

Modi tweeted on Friday that he is looking forward to talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and “reaffirming our support for the Palestinian people and the development of Palestine.”
 

During his visit to Israel last year, he did not travel to the Palestinian headquarters as is usually the case with visiting leaders.

India was among more than 120 countries to vote in favor of a resolution in December calling for the United States to drop its recent recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

But the scale of India's security and commercial ties with Israel dwarfs the engagement with the Palestinians.

Modi will also travel to the United Arab Emirates, and to Oman.

The Gulf is home to nine million Indians who remit $35 billion home each year, sustaining millions of families. The UAE committed an investment of $75 billion in India when Modi visited in 2015 and the two sides will be looking to advance that goal, the foreign ministry said.

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Last Update: Friday, 9 February 2018 KSA 19:35 - GMT 16:35
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