Prime Minister Narendra Modi will leave here later this week on a path-breaking visit to Palestine to reiterate India’s unwavering support to the cause of the Palestinians even as India deepens its engagement with Israel. Modi will thus become the first Indian PM to visit Palestine.
‘’It will be a stand-along visit to Palestine…we have de-hyphenated our relationship with Palestine and Israel,’’ B Bala Bhaskar, Joint Secretary in the External Affairs Ministry said while briefing the media about the PM’s visit to Palestine, UAE and Oman from 10 February. The PM’s visit to West Asia is taking place within a month of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to India.
India and Palestine are expected to sign 5-6 agreements after bilateral talks between Modi and Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas. During his brief stay in Ramallah, the PM will also inaugurate an IT Park. India has been helping Palestine in capacity-building in different areas. New Delhi’s contribution has come in for much appreciation by the Palestine leadership and the people at large.
Asked whether security and counter-terror cooperation would also figure during the talks between the two sides, Bhaskar said Palestine has been a stronger supporter of India in its fight against terrorism. This was again demonstrated by Palestine when it acted promptly and recalled its ambassador to Pakistan after India lodged a protest over his sharing of dais with Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed at a rally in Pakistan.
Talking about the PM’s visits to UAE and Oman, Mridul Kumar, Joint Secretary (Gulf) in the ministry said the PM would reach Aby Dhabi (UAE) from Palestine late in the evening on 10 February. He will hold talks with the UAE leadership and address the Indian diaspora. The highlight of his visit to the UAE will be the laying of the foundation stone of a grand Hindu temple in the Islamic nation.
The PM will also participate at the World Government Summit in Dubai at which India is the ‘guest country’ this year.
In Oman, the PM will visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque and a Shiva temple during his stay. He will hold extensive talks with the leadership in Oman on bilateral issues as well as regional matters, including the challenge posed by terrorism. Oman is India’s key strategic partner and regularly holds defence exercises with this country. Modi will also address an Indian community function in Oman.