Affirming ties with India and Palestine’s support to “India’s fight against terror,” Palestinian Ambassador to India Adnan Abu Al Haija informed the government on Saturday that the Palestinian Authority had decided to recall its Ambassador to Pakistan, Walid Abu Ali, for sharing the stage with LeT chief Hafiz Saeed .
“What he did was not acceptable to my government. Palestine has very close ties with India and has always supported India’s fight against terror. As a result, [Ambassador Ali] has been recalled to Ramallah by the government,” Ambassador Al Haija said in exclusive comments to The Hindu .
In Islamabad, Mr. Ali refused to comment, but diplomatic officials confirmed that he had received orders to return to Palestine.
In a statement issued in Ramallah, the Palestinian Authority’s Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Ambassador’s decision to participate in the rally with Hafiz Saeed was an “unintended mistake, but not justified.”
“The State of Palestine affirms its stand with the Republic of India in dealing with terrorist threats, as our nations are real partners in the war against terrorism,” the statement said.
Earlier on Saturday, India had conveyed its strong protest on the matter to Ambassador Al Haija, who met with Secretary, Economic Relations, Vijay Gokhale at the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi.
“Government of India has strongly conveyed to the Palestinian side that the Palestinian Ambassador in Pakistan's association with terrorist Hafiz Saeed, who is proscribed by the United Nations… is unacceptable,” a statement issued by the MEA after the meeting said, adding that India had taken up the matter in both Delhi and Ramallah.
On Friday, the Palestinian Ambassador to Pakistan had attended a rally by the Difa-e-Pakistan, an Islamist front led by Hafiz Saeed at Rawalpindi’s Liaqat Bagh.
Ambassador Ali had been photographed sharing the stage with Saeed, accused of being the mastermind of the Mumbai 26/11 attacks.
While the rally had been held to express solidarity on Jerusalem’s status, anti-India slogans on Kashmir were raised as well, according to local reports.
The photographs and reports were received with condemnation in New Delhi, and civil society groups like the India Palestine Solidarity Forum (IPSF) had demanded that Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas sack Ambassador Ali.
India's vote in U.N.
The move by the Palestinian Ambassador to Pakistan was considered particularly insulting as it came close on the heels of India’s vote at the U.N . General Assembly in support of the two-state solution and criticising the U.S. and Israel for supporting a shift in Jerusalem’s status.
Palestine had welcomed India’s vote and said it was “proud of India and its friendship.” Israeli government sources had told The Hindu that they had protested with New Delhi on the vote, but through the “right diplomatic channels”, i.e. silently.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit Palestine in early 2018, and the decision of the Palestinian diplomat to support one of India’s most wanted terrorists could cast a shadow on the plans.
(With inputs from Mubashir Zaidi in Islamabad)