Story Of The Week

Cutting the Right Deals: Modi’s Palestine Visit

For the only way in which a durable peace can be created is by world-wide restoration of economic activity and International Trade.

                                                                                                          -James Forrestal

To strengthen ties with the Gulf countries, Prime minister Narendra Modi begins his three nation tour on 9th February to Palestine, UAE and Oman. Out of the three, the Palestine visit is considered to be the most ‘Historic’ as it came six months after the Prime Minister’s visit to Israel and at a time when the relations between the two countries are strengthening.

Narendra Modi will be the first Indian prime minister to visit Palestine. The prime minister said,”I look forward to strengthening India’s growing and important ties with West Asia and the Gulf region through the visit.”


India-Palestine Relations

India has been quite successful in careful balancing and managing its relationships between the opposites – US – Russia, Israel – Iran, China – Japan etc. The same story repeats in the case of Israel-Palestine.

India’s support to Palestine has been consistent and deep rooted. It traces back to days of PM Jawaharlal Nehru, India voted against UN Partition Plan for Palestine in 1947.  In 1949, it voted against Israel’s admission into the UN, and had not recognised Israel as a state officially till 1950. India was also first non-Arab country which recognised and established relations with Palestine Liberation Organisation as a representative of Palestinians. It also recognised Palestine as independent nation at its time of declaration in 1988.

Even recently, India was one of the 120 nations who voted in favour of a resolution that called for US to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as capital of Israel.


“The Visit”

After discussing the full arrays of India- Palestine ties the two heads,Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, signed six agreements worth around USD 50 million. The visit is aimed at development in terms of building education areas, health infrastructure and Information Technology.

The agreements include:

  • An agreement worth $30 million for setting up super speciality hospital in Beit Sahour.
  • A $5 million worth for construction of center for empowering women.
  • Three agreements worth $5 million in education sector and for procurement of machinery and equipment for National Printing Press in Ramallah.
  • They are building an India-Palestinian technology park in Ramallah, which will help develop IT expertise and generate employment in the area.
  • During the visit, PM would also inaugurate the Palestine Institute for Diplomacy for which India has given support of US $4.5 million.
  • ‘Grand Collar of the State of Palestine’ was conferred on Prime Minister Modi, by President Abbas, recognising Prime Minister Modi’s key contributions to promote ties between India and Palestine. The order of Grand Collar is the highest order given to foreign dignitaries- Kings, Heads of State/ Government and persons of similar rank.

The common term being used in this visit is ‘De-hyphenation’.

Earlier India’s relations with Israel-Palestine were hyphenated i.e linked. If there was a meeting with the leader of one of the countries, there was also a meeting with the other country’s leadership. India ensured not to hurt Palestine’s interest vis-a-vis Israel and vice versa.

But now with this de-hyphenation, India has recognised both Israel and Palestine as independent and mutually exclusive nations. This visit by PM Narendra Modi just to Palestine and not Israel this time, shows just that. There will be separate relations, policies for both the nations.

This can be seen as a strategic move by some from India’s side, as rather that getting in the middle of two complicated entities, India can continue maintaining the image of historical support to Palestine as well as having economic, military and other strategic relations with Israel as well. It can avoid alienating one side over the other.

Conclusion: Striking the balance between India-Israel-Palestine

India has tried to “de-hyphenate” the relation between Israel and Palestine, and on several occasions has expressed its belief of two-state solution in which  both Israel and a future Palestinian state coexist peacefully.

Palestine is facing a big humanitarian crisis in terms of refugees who have left their land. The recent declaration of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital by US will deny many people the ‘right to return’ as per international resolutions furthur disturbing peace in the region.

On the other hand,India’s relations with Israel on the other hand have been flourishing as well. Israel is one of India’s top 3 arms suppliers with business worth millions each year. They are also working towards cooperation in energy, agriculture, defence and cybersecurity.

The ‘symbolic’ visit of the PM uncovers India’s new approach toward Israel and Palestine. Currently, the two are  managed independently at respective level and free of each other. India wishes to take the relations with both Israel and Palestine freely without getting confounded by outsider prisms.​




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