Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Modi to be first Indian PM to visit Palestine

Modi to be first Indian PM to visit Palestine

Modi to be first Indian PM to visit Palestine

by Nirmala Ganapathy

NEW DELHI (The Straits Times/ANN) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will arrive in Ramallah on Saturday, becoming the first top level Indian leader to visit Palestine, as his government steps up its outreach to the Arab world.

The visit follows a groundbreaking trip by the Prime Minister to Israel, and one to New Delhi by his Israeli counterpart, Mr Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Modi will not be entering Ramallah from Israel and is instead flying to Jordan first before taking a helicopter ride from Amman to the Palestinian city.

The Indian leader is also visiting the United Arab Emirates and Oman as part of a four-day trip to the region.

In Ramallah, he is scheduled to tour the Yasser Arafat Museum, hold talks with the Palestinian leadership and attend a banquet lunch, according to the Ministry of External Affairs here.

"This is a stand-alone visit. 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," said Mr Bala Bhaskar, an official in charge of West Asia in the ministry.

India has traditionally balanced ties with Palestine and Israel, although Mr Modi raised eyebrows in July last year when he became the first Indian prime minister to make a stand-alone visit to Israel.

In January, Mr Netanyahu was in India for a six-day visit and the bonhomie between the two leaders was clearly on display at various times.

Analysts said Mr Modi's visit to Ramallah comes at a crucial time, after United States President Donald Trump's controversial decisions to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and cut off aid to Palestine.

Mr Zikrur Rehman, India's former ambassador to Palestine, said: "India has always remained at the forefront, stating clearly East Jerusalem should be the capital.

"In the last few statements (on the issue), this has been dropped.

"This is a core issue as far as Arabs are concerned. How he handles this will be important."

There was no mention of the issue, for example, while Mr Modi was in Israel as well as when he issued a statement on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people on Nov 25.

Mr Modi's trip to Oman and the United Arab Emirates - both of which have a sizeable Indian population - takes place soon after a visit by Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj to Saudi Arabia.

The Gulf region is important to New Delhi not only for security in energy supplies but also because 2.6 million Indians work there and send money back home to their families.

The Modi government has also sought to ramp up India's engagement with West Asia and the rest of the Arab world as it seeks to attract foreign investment.

While India's ties with the Gulf have been fostered by previous governments too, Mr Modi has paid particular attention to the region, and this was seen as part of efforts to redefine ties.

Said Mr Raveesh Kumar, a Ministry of External Affairs spokesman, at a recent press briefing on the Prime Minister's visit to West Asia: "We are looking at redefining our neighbourhood, looking at our neighbourhood not only from the land perspective but also from the maritime perspective."

Mr Kumar added that ties with the Gulf countries were not just about the large Indian population but also an effort "to broad base our engagement with these countries into moving towards a more strategic sphere both on trade and investment as well as on defence and security".

MOST VIEWED

  • US imposes sanctions on Oknha Pheap and Kun Kim

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed strong dismay on Monday over the designation of Cambodian tycoon Oknha Try Pheap and General Kun Kim under the US’ Global Magnitsky Act. “It is very disturbing when the public figures of a country become the

  • Mother, daughter killed in hotel fire

    The bodies of a mother and daughter were found locked in an embrace after they were killed in a hotel fire in Phnom Penh at around 3:30am on Wednesday at the Phkar Chhouk Tep 2 Hotel and Restaurant in Phsar Doeum Kor commune, in the capital’

  • Rights Day forum denied in Sihanoukville

    The Preah Sihanouk provincial administration last Saturday denied the request of land communities for a public location in the province to celebrate International Human Rights Day 2019 as the administration had already held forums to discuss land issues. However, the land community representatives said they would

  • EBA withdrawal a destruction of EU achievements, PM says

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the EU’s possible suspension of its Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement amounted to a destruction of its achievements in the Kingdom and the demise of the opposition group. Hun Sen made the remarks while addressing more than 6,700 students during

  • Kingdom calls on Japan to increase number of direct flights to Siem Reap, Phnom Penh

    Cambodia is requesting Japan to increase the number of direct flights from Japanese cities and provinces to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, so as to contribute to increasing cooperation and tourist numbers between the two countries. During the opening ceremony of 3rd Japan Travel Fair

  • Court orders Sokha to stand trial on January 15 for treason

    The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has set January 15 as the trial date for Kem Sokha, the former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) who is under court-supervised bail on a treason charge. In a press release issued on Monday, the municipal