India has the right to build relations with Israel but it should not come at the “expense” of New Delhi’s firm support for the Palestinian cause, a close aide of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Tuesday. Ahead of Abbas’ visit to India next week, Dr Majdi Khaldi, a senior Palestinian official, described India’s relations with Palestine as “historic” and “steady” and asserted that the Palestinians want to strengthen their ties with India and seek support for their “struggle”.
“India has the right to have relations with Israel and any other country but what we care about is that it should not be at the expense of its relations with Palestine and its principled stand supporting the Palestinian cause that we should have our state within the 1967 borders with east Jerusalem as its capital,” Khaldi, a senior diplomatic adviser of Abbas, told PTI in an interview.
Responding to a question about Prime Minister Narendra Modi only visiting Israel later this year, skipping Palestine, Khaldi said, “it is his decision”. “It is up to the Indian Prime Minister to decide when and where to visit. It is his decision. The President (Abbas) was invited by the Prime Minister (Modi) to visit India which he is doing,” the aide to the Palestinian president said.
Several MoUs will be signed between India and Palestine during Abbas’ visit to New Delhi from May 14 to 17 with special emphasis on cooperation in the fields of health, agriculture, sports and youth affairs, the official said.
“We are looking forward to the exchange between our president and the Indian president and also with Prime Minister Modi. The president met Prime Minister Modi in New York and Paris. This is an important visit which will help relations to flourish in many areas and also renew relations in several others”, the senior diplomatic advisor said.
“We are interested in strengthening our relations with India and to continue getting its political support for our cause and this is the most important thing for us, irrespective of India’s relations with Israel. The most important thing is that it should not be at the expense of our relations, the good relations between India and Palestine,” he asserted.
Khaldi stressed that the “excellent” relations between Palestine and India were based on shared values and would grow irrespective of “who governs India”. “Palestine and India have historic relations that do not stand only on bilateral visits. We have excellent relations with all parties, no matter who governs India. The reason is the deep relations between the two people and also the establishment in the two countries,” Khaldi said.
Despite concerns raised in the past over India’s vote at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which some in the Israeli media interpreted as a change in India’s thinking under the new government, the Palestinian Authority seems to have accepted New Delhi’s position.
“We see India supporting Palestine in most of the international forums. Some of the votes have been explained to us as technical votes. We see the political support of India as steady. This is how we feel,” Khaldi emphasised.
Appreciating India’s assistance in capacity building in Palestine and support to the local population through several projects, the Palestinian official said that the relations between the two sides was “going in a new direction”.
Palestinians now seek New Delhi’s help in acquiring new technologies, he said. “We have developed bilateral committees lately so that we can renew most of the agreements to strengthen the relations between our two countries and some of these are going to improve economic exchange between Palestine and India”, the official said.
“We found that the area of technologies is one area where we can cooperate, which is a new area. You know India is very successful in this field and we have already developed some capacity in this field. India is helping us in developing a technology park. We call it Palestine-India techno park,” Khaldi added. “We are going to expand cooperation between the businessmen and the two governments. This project is going to trigger much wider relations between the two nations,” he asserted.
Abbas will be visiting India following his recent meetings in Cairo, Amman and with US President Donald Trump in Washington. He is likely to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow from where he would fly out to New Delhi. “The president is going to talk to the (Indian) prime minister about the latest developments from his visit to the United States and the importance of the engagement of President Trump in this conflict which is very vital,” Khaldi said.
“He (Trump) is convinced that he can do something different, something important to solve this conflict and can help reach an ultimate deal and we are going to be fully cooperative,” he said. The Palestinian president will also brief the Indian political leadership on different regional developments, especially the crisis in Syria, Yemen, Libya and certain other parts of the region. Abbas’ forthcoming visit would be his fifth to New Delhi in the last 12 years and the third state visit underlining the importance of bilateral relations, Khaldi said