India reiterates call for ‘sovereign, independent, viable state of Palestine’

India’s “longstanding and consistent” policy on Palestinian state remains unchanged, says MEA spokesperson; Operation Ajay begins Thursday with evacuation of 230 Indians from Israel

Updated - October 13, 2023 08:07 am IST

Published - October 12, 2023 08:24 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Ministry of External Affairs reiterated its call for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state saying that there was an “obligation” to uphold humanitarian principles. File

The Ministry of External Affairs reiterated its call for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state saying that there was an “obligation” to uphold humanitarian principles. File | Photo Credit: ANI

India reiterated its call for the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state on Thursday, with the Ministry of External Affairs saying that there was an “obligation” to uphold humanitarian principles.

Operation Ajay, India’s mission to rescue its citizens from conflict-hit Israel, will begin on Thursday evening, with the first flight expected to evacuate 230 Indians, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at his weekly press briefing. He added that India is in close contact with “relevant stakeholders” on the fast unfolding situation.

Israel-Hamas war, day 6 LIVE updates | Netanyahu vows that Hamas will be crushed

‘Longstanding policy’

“India always advocated the resumption of direct negotiations towards establishing a sovereign, independent and viable state of Palestine, living within secure and recognised borders, side by side at peace with Israel,” Mr. Bagchi said, emphasising that India’s position on Palestine has been “longstanding and consistent” and that there has been no change in that policy.  

Earlier in the day, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar held a round of meetings with Ministry officials to take stock of the situation.

‘Evolving situation’

On Operation Ajay, Mr. Bagchi said: “The ferry flight is expected to reach [Israel] later this evening and around 230 passengers will be evacuated in the first flight.” He added that are around 18,000 Indians in Israel right now, with about a dozen in the West Bank, and at least four in the Gaza Strip that is being bombed by Israel. 

Also read: How Hamas’s attack unfolded in Israel’s southern border towns 

“This is a dynamic situation. It is evolving. I would request Indians in Israel, please do register with the Embassy of India if you have not registered till now. We will have more flights depending on the demand for them,” Mr. Bagchi said, indicating that the Union government is keeping “all options” on the table and will press more aircraft into service for the operation if needed.

One Indian, a caregiver from Kerala, was injured in the attack by Hamas last Saturday, Mr. Bagchi said, adding that the person is currently undergoing treatment. “There has been no Indian casualty,” he said.

Hamas: a terror group?

Mr. Bagchi categorically stated that India considers last Saturday’s strike against Israel a “terrorist attack”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had condemned terrorism and expressed solidarity with the Israeli people following the attack by Hamas on Saturday. 

The official spokesperson said that there was a “universal obligation” to observe humanitarian law, but also emphasised the requirement to fight against international terrorism.

Also read: Israel-Hamas war | More than 3,38,000 people displaced in Gaza, says U.N.

However, Mr. Bagchi did not give a clear answer to a journalist’s question on whether India considers Hamas a terror organisation. Saying that such a determination was the responsibility of other departments, the MEA spokesperson said, “Our focus is to help our citizens.”

‘Talking to all stakeholders’

His comments were the first set of detailed remarks from the MEA about the situation in West Asia, since Saturday’s air, land and sea attack on Israel and its retaliatory air attack on the Gaza Strip. 

“In the world of diplomacy, we are always engaged in conversation and contacts. Of course we maintain close contacts with all relevant stakeholders at various levels,” Mr. Bagchi noted.

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