Indian PM arrives in Ramallah for talks with Abbas


Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas (R) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend a joint press conference after their meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah on February 10, 2018.

Narendra Modi pledged $40 million for economic development in the Palestinian territories, marking the first-ever visit by an Indian prime minister to the West Bank.

PM Modi's first visit to Palestine underlined India's independent relations with the two warring states in the region.

After a bilateral meeting, Abbas gave the Indian leader a medal "in recognition of his wise leadership" and "efforts to promote the historic relations between the State of Palestine and the Republic of India".

The Palestinians have rejected the USA 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. He said India remains "committed to Palestinian national rights", but stopped short of offering support for Abbas' political agenda. On his part, Abbas acknowledged that the Indian leadership has always stood by peace in Palestine.

"India hopes that soon Palestine will become a free country in a peaceful manner".

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Prime Minister Modi was conferred Saudi Arabia's highest civilian award the King Abdulaziz Sash when he visited the Kingdom in April 2016.

Modi's visit will be his second to the UAE since becoming Prime Minister in 2014. The agreement includes building a specialty hospital, three schools and the construction of a center for empowering women. Modi's first visit to the UAE had come in August 2015 which was the first official visit of an Indian PM to the UAE in 34 years after Indira Gandhi's visit in 1981. "We rely on India's role as an global force and its role in the non-alignment movement and in the worldwide fora, in a way that is conducive to desired peace in our region". This time Modi skipped in a clear message that is de-hyphenating its ties with and Palestine.

After paying homage to Yasser Arafat at the Mausoleum, the Prime Minister will take a short tour, accompanied by Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, of the Yasser Arafat Museum located adjacent to the Mausoleum. The Palestinians see east as their future capital.

Saying that Palestinians were ready to engage in dialogue, Abbas said he was counting on India's support for negotiations between Israel and Palestine.

India's refusal to support the United States moves to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital disappointed Israel. India and Palestine enjoy time-tested and close friendship driven by former long-standing support to the Palestinian cause.