India moves to strengthen relationship with Palestine
Implementation of all the 11 pacts signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former president Pranab Mukherjee’s visits to the West Asian country are a top priority with the government, officials say.Updated: Apr 02, 2018 23:17 IST
India may have no plans to recognise East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine but the government is stepping up ties with that country in line with its policy to de-hyphenate the relationship from that with Israel.
Implementation of all the 11 pacts signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi and former president Pranab Mukherjee’s visits to the West Asian country are a top priority with the government, officials privy to the developments said. Indian has also more than trebled to $5 million the aid to Palestine refugees.
“Diplomacy is not a zero-sum game. Both Palestine and Israel are important relations for India. Each stands on its own”, a government official said. India’s support to the Palestine cause had been consistent and it was articulated in “no uncertain terms by no less than the Prime Minister”, the official said. Modi’s February visit to Palestine was the first by an Indian prime minister which came a few weeks after Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu spent six days in India.
In a written reply to the Rajya Sabha, the government said it had no plans to recognise East Jerusalem. Last December, the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation declared East Jerusalem the capital of Palestine and urged the international community to do the same.
The move came a week after US President Donald Trump declared Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and decided to move his country’s diplomatic mission there. India had voted against Israel at the United Nations on the status of Jerusalem.
The status of Jerusalem should be discussed between Israel and Palestine, the government said in its reply. Recently responding to a United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East Flash Appeal, India increased its annual contribution to UNRWA from $1.25 million to $5 million from 2018-19 for three years.
The increase in contribution was based on external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s commitment to enhance India’s support to UNRWA, an official said.
The Modi government has also stepped up the ties with Israel, a key defence and security partner of the country. But there has been a conscious effort to project each relationship as stand alone, independent of the other country.
Eight months before his historic visit to Palestine, Modi visited Israel in July 2017, a first for an Indian prime minister. Traditionally, Indian leaders visited both the countries, who are bitter foes, during the same trip.