PM Modi Begins 3-Nation Visit Today, First Indian PM To Visit Palestine

"This will be the first ever Prime Ministerial visit to Palestine from India," PM Modi said in a statement about the visit that New Delhi has described as "historic". He will wrap up the tour on Monday.

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PM Modi Begins 3-Nation Visit Today, First Indian PM To Visit Palestine

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had met PM Modi in Delhi last year (File Photo)

New Delhi:  Six months after his ground-breaking visit to Israel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi left on a three-nation tour on Friday that will take him to Palestine on a short, but hugely symbolic visit before traveling to United Arab Emirates and Oman. He will wrap up the tour on Monday. "This will be the first ever Prime Ministerial visit to Palestine from India," PM Modi said in a statement about the visit that New Delhi has described as "historic".

From New Delhi, PM Modi is traveling tp Jordanian capital Amman and take a chopper ride to reach the Palestinian city of Ramallah a little over 100 km away. The city in the West Bank, which hosts the Palestinian Authority's presidential headquarters, also serves as its de facto capital.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who met PM Modi in Delhi last year, has welcomed the Indian leader in what he has described as "a significant" visit by a "grand guest".

President Abbas, 52, told news agency PTI that he would discuss the possible role India can play in enhancing peace in the region.

"We believe in the importance of a possible Indian role... to reach a final agreement based on international consensus and resolutions, in which India and other countries can be part of," President Abbas said.

But before PM Modi sits down for formal discussions with President Abbas, the Indian Prime Minister will lay a wreath at the memorial for Yasser Arafat, who headed the Palestine Liberation Organization and later also headed the Palestinian National Authority till his death in 2004.

It is a visit that is being keenly tracked by Israel as well, from across the over 700-km long security barrier edging the West Bank. PM Modi's Palestine visit comes just weeks after he hosted Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu in Delhi and his home state, Gujarat.

Over at least five decades, New Delhi has consistently supported the Palestinian cause, recognising it as a state in 1988.

India's policy towards both nations has undergone a steady shift since the NDA government headed by PM Modi came to power in 2014.

The stand-alone visit to Palestine, like the one to Israel last year, is part of New Dehi's effort to de-hyphenate relations with Israel and Palestine. "Now we see them both as mutually independent and exclusive and as part of this policy Prime Minister is undertaking this visit," B Bala Bhaskar, joint secretary of the foreign ministry said this week.

In December, India voted at the United Nations along with 127 other nations against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The status of Jerusalem is one of most contentious issues between Israel and Palestine, with the Arab state wanting East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. Later, India said its position on Palestine was "independent" and "consistent".

"I am looking forward to my discussions with President Mahmoud Abbas and reaffirming our support for the Palestinian people and the development of Palestine," PM Modi said in his  statement before flying out. This will be their fourth meeting.

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