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Narendra Modi's Palestine visit: India's improved ties with Israel could help push peace process, say experts

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

Modi, the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Palestine, is reaching Ramallah amid heightened tensions in the region after US President Donald Trump recognised Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

A file image of prime minister Narendra Modi. PTI.

A file image of prime minister Narendra Modi. PTI.

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

Ahmad Majdalani, a Palestine Liberation Organisation Executive Committee member, said improved relations between Israel and India could help the Palestinians.

"The growing ties between them could be positive, because now India has more leverage with Israel and can pressure it in our favour," Majdalani was quoted as saying by The Jerusalem Post.

In discussions with several officials in Ramallah, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, it appears that the Palestinian leadership sees in the Indian prime minister's visit an opportunity to seek his assistance in pushing forward the deadlocked peace process.

"India today enjoys wider acceptance in the global community. The recent participation of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) leaders in its Republic Day function is a clear demonstration of its enhanced status. Its membership in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and visibility at several leading international forums, clearly shows that it is today a global player", an official said.

Another official pointed at the "moral standing" India enjoys in the international community which can be put to good use.

The hype around India's strategic ties with Israel and the bonhomie around Modi's visit to Israel and its prime minister's visit to India also does not seem to perturb the Palestinians.

"Well even Jordan and Egypt have full diplomatic relations with Israel so why can't India have," said Ayman, a university student.

His friends seem to back the same contention displaying a great degree of acquaintance of international politics. Some appreciated India's support for the Palestinians at the UN despite all the publicity around the personal chemistry between Modi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

When asked about India's growing engagement with Israel, President Mahmoud Abbas himself emphaticlally asserted that "any state has the right to establish relations with other countries".

The Indian prime minister would be skipping Israel during his tour of the West Asia in a clear message that New Delhi is de-hyphenating its ties with Israel and Palestine.

Modi had visited Israel last year in July in a standalone visit that had led to many analysts questioning the future of the Indo-Palestine ties.

The question that arises out of Abbas' effort is if Israel would accept a multilateral forum of the sort being promoted by him to seek negotiated peace. Israel has made it clear that it will only work under a US-led peace process.

India has also consistently voted in favour of the Palestinians at all international forums and Netanyahu clearly expressed his "disappointment" at New Delhi's recent vote at the UN General Assembly where 128 nations rejected US' unilateral declaration of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

As Modi embarks on the three-hour hectic trip to Palestine today, he kickstarts his engagement by laying a wreath at the Mausoleum of iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The Israeli press has highlighted the event with some reports expressing disappointment over the gesture. Many Israelis see Arafat responsible for th killing of several innocent civilians and stoking violence in the region.

Modi will be accompanied by his Palestinian counterpart Rami Hamdallah during the ceremony.

The Mausoleum of Yasser Arafat 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, the prime minister will take a short tour accompanied by Hamdallah of the Yasser Arafat Museum located adjacent to the Mausoleum.

He will spend some 20 minutes touring the 15-month-old Yasser Arafat Museum, which chronicles the life of the former Palestinian leader.

According to Muhammad Halayka, the director of the Arafat Museum, Modi will be the first Prime Minister to visit the site.

Modi will then be received by President Abbas before the ceremonial welcome at the Muqata'a.

The two leaders will then have discussions, sign bilateral agreements, hold a joint press conference and share lunch before Modi leaves for Amman in a chopper following a farewell ceremony.

Modi will then leave for the UAE later in the day for a two-day visit.

Updated Date: Feb 10, 2018 13:14 PM

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