At 11.29am on Monday, President Pranab Mukherjee crossed the Betunia checkpoint to enter Palestine from Israel to create history. He is the first Indian head of the state to reach to this conflict zone, which also has deep relations with India spanning over several decades.
Pranab’s visit to Palestine also assumes significance as it comes ahead of his two day visit to Israel, with whom India is trying to deepen its ties.
India has a long history of relationship with Palestine, currently witnessing fresh violence with Israel, and President Mukherjee used the occasion to reiterate India’s commitment to an independent and viable Palestine.
On his arrival in Ramallah, capital city of the Palestine National Authority, President Mukherjee laid a wreath at the Mausoleum of Yasser Arafat, the former president and a revered figure.
Mukherjee later met President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas and reiterated India’s commitment to the cause of Palestine, saying New Delhi wanted to see an independent and viable Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital living at peace side by side with Israel.
“President Mukherjee gifted a grant of 5 million dollar to Palestine and also announced five different projects amounting to $17.79 million,” India’s secretary East Anil Wadhwa said.
“Abbas told President Mukherjee that he was for a negotiated settlement with Israel and would like to bring down tempers in the region,” Wadwa added.
India was one of the first countries to recognize the state of Palestine in 1988. In 1996, India opened its representative office to the Palestine authority in Gaza, which was later shifted to Ramallah in 2003.
India is trying to strike a balance between its long standing commitments to the Palestinian cause and its eagerness to increase engagements with Israel. President Mukherjee visit to these countries will also lay the foundation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to Israel.