President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday held talks with his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah where he reiterated India’s economic and political support for the Palestinians, and announced projects for capacity building in Gaza and West Bank.
The President has handed over a cheque of $5 million to the Palestinian government as a budgetary support, Anil Wadhwa, Secretary East at the External Affairs Ministry, told the accompanying media delegation after high-level talks.
Both countries have also announced five projects worth $17.79 million aimed at capacity building in the Palestinian territories. The projects include a $12 million techno park, a $4.5 million Palestine Institute for Diplomacy and a $1 million India-Palestine Centre for Excellence in Gaza.
Mr. Mukherjee has arrived in Ramallah at a time when clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces are on the rise. On Monday, two Palestinians were shot dead after they carried out stabbing attacks against Israeli police in Jerusalem. On Saturday, an Israeli airstrike in the Gaza strip, which is under the control of the Islamist Hamas, had killed a pregnant Palestinian woman and her three-year old daughter.
Reflecting the complicated security situation, the President and his entourage drove from the Ben-Gurion airport in Tel Aviv to the Bitunia checkpoint which divides Israel from Palestine. The President and members of the delegation had to change from Israeli vehicles to those arranged by Palestine.
In Ramallah, President Mukherjee visited the Yasser Arafat mausoleum, and paid floral tribute to the late Palestinian leader.
During the talks, Mr. Mukherjee has reiterated India’s position that it supports a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian crisis based on negotiations and UN Security Council resolutions. Mr. Wadhwa said India would continue to support resolution on the formation of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 border at the UN.
Later in the day, at a state banquet, President Mukherjee invited Palestinian President Abbas to India. “I would like to invite Your Excellency to visit India at a mutually convenient time. It would be an honour to receive him in Delhi,” he said.
He said India’s empathy with the Palestinian cause and its support for the Palestinian people have become an “integral part” of the country’s foreign policy.
Mr. Abbas, on his part, has thanked India’s “political and financial support”, and expressed confidence that India would always stay with the Palestinian people.
On Tuesday, President Mukherjee would address students at the al-Quds university before going to Jerusalem.