Highlighting India’s humanitarian support to Palestine, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to announce the setting up of a 100-bed super-specialty hospital in Ramallah, top sources have told The Indian Express. There are also plans to set up schools, and an announcement is likely to take place during Modi’s visit Saturday, the first by an Indian Prime Minister.
The focus of the visit, sources said, will not be “political”, but more “humanitarian” in nature. Pacts on health, education, information technology and skill development are expected to be signed during the visit.
Sources said the focus will be on “infrastructure” and “capacity building” of Palestine. “The MoUs and announcements will be people-centric during the visit. The government will provide infrastructure support for the people of Palestine who do not have good access to world-class healthcare and education,” sources said.
“The political aspects will be at a low-key level since New Delhi — with its vote at the UN against the US move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital — has already made it clear which side we are on. There will be more focus on the non-political aspects,” sources said.
Sources said Modi had told Indian officials way back in 2015 to prepare for the visit, and it was announced only at an “opportune time”. In fact, he had told Palestinian ambassador Abu Adnan Alhaijaa in 2015 that he would visit Palestine as well, and not just Israel, when they met after a book launch session at the Prime Minister’s residence.
At the Grand Park hotel in Ramallah Thursday, Alhaijaa told The Indian Express: “About two months after the External Affairs Minister announced that the Prime Minister would be visiting Israel, I was invited to a book launch event at the PM’s residence. After the event, there were snacks, and many Arab envoys were asking him about his possible visit to Palestine… he did not respond. When I walked up to him, I did not want to put him in a spot… so I whispered to him: When are you coming to our country? He told me, I am coming to both (Palestine and Israel).”
According to him, the initial plans were to have both visits in early 2016 but that did not materialise. “It is better late, than to not happen at all… it is a historic event that the Indian Prime Minister, who has never come to Palestine, is visiting for the first time,” he said.
Nasser Shiyoukhi, president of the Modern University College, said: “The Palestinian youth need help in IT and skill development… and India is a friend and IT giant. We want to learn from Indian professionals. This visit will be historic, if the youth get opportunities to study and make their lives better.” His college imparts vocational education and is one of the premier institutions in Ramallah.
Modi, who lands in Jordan Friday, is likely to have a meeting with the King of Jordan Abdullah II. Abdullah is the custodian of the Muslim and Christian sacred sites in Jerusalem, a position held by his dynasty since 1924. Officials said that scheduling a meeting with him was done, keeping in mind sensitivities in the region.
“The Prime Minister’s visit to Palestine has been clubbed with one of the most prominent backers of the Palestinian cause, the King of Jordan. Though no political statements are expected, a call-on meeting will be perceived to send a signal to the wider Arab world,” an official told The Indian Express.
On Saturday morning, Modi will take a helicopter to Ramallah. He will also visit the Yasser Arafat museum and hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas has visited India five times since 2005. His last visit took place in May 2017 — before Modi’s visit to Israel in July.