India on Friday reiterated its support to the Palestinian cause and announced that it has begun a direct visa issuance system from its office in Ramallah that is expected to further strengthen people-to-people contact between the two countries.
Minister of state for external affairs E Ahamed, on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, said India is perhaps the first country in the region to launch a visa issuing system from Ramallah.
The facility was launched in September this year. "With this facility, Palestinian nationals will be issued visas within 2-3 working days," he said.
Stressing that "Indians have always placed Palestine close to their hearts", Ahamed said since the opening of its representative office in Palestine India has been extending technical and economic assistance to the Palestine National Authority in the form of development projects, setting up educational institutions, humanitarian relief etc.
During President Mahmoud Abbas's visit last year, India pledged $10 million as budgetary support and is also helping construct schools, setting up an IT centre and a vocational training centre in Palestine, he said.
Besides, India contributes annually $1 million to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). With Brazil and South Africa as partners in the IBSA (India, Brazil, South Africa) bloc, India is also implementing developmental projects in Palestine, Ahamed said at the event organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA).
India will continue to support Palestine's bid for full and equal membership of the UN, the minister said, and added that India welcomes the efforts by Palestine and Israel for resumption of direct peace talks.
UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, in his message read out by Peter E Kenmore, FAO representative in India, called upon the international community to support the endeavour of the Palestinian and Israeli negotiators to work together for a comprehensive settlement of the issue. He voiced concern over Israel's settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Adli Hassan Shaban Sadeq, Palestine ambassador to India, said his country looks forward to a stronger role from the countries of NAM and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) "with India in the forefront" of the Palestinian cause.
He said the situation in the occupied territories was "not viable for peace" due to Israel's settlement activity, and the gap between Palestine and Israel "was widening due to the blatant violation of international law by Israel".
Mazin Al-Masoudi, in charge of the League of Arab States Mission, said they were appreciative of India's significant contribution to the Palestine cause.
Rajiv K Bhatia, ICWA director general, said there is "pressing need for crafting and promoting consensus within peoples, states, the region, and among the major international players who have a direct stake in West Asia".