Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday arrived in Jordan on the first leg of his four-nation regional trip that will also take him to a first-ever Indian prime ministerial visit to Palestine, besides the UAE and Oman.
The February 9-12 trip comes within a month of the visit to India by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that saw the two countries hailing each other as a strategic partner despite New Delhi’s long-standing support for the Palestinian cause.
Modi began the visit with Jordan, the first by an Indian prime minister in 30 years. He was “warmly received by Jordan’s Prime Minister Hani al-Mulki in Amman,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.
The spokesperson said the visit to the four countries was aimed at deepening “our multifaceted ties with the Gulf and west Asian region”.
After arriving in Amman, Modi met King Abdullah II who will facilitate his transit to Palestine today.
When Modi reaches Ramallah, the capital of the Palestine Authority, from Jordan’s capital Amman in a helicopter, he will be the first Indian prime minister to visit Palestine where he will meet President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Palestinian Presidency, in a pre-arrival welcome statement, described the upcoming visit as “historic and significant”.
Before taking off from New Delhi, Modi said he was “looking forward to my discussions with President Abbas and reaffirming our support for the Palestinian people and the development of Palestine”.
This will be Modi’s fourth meeting with Abbas. They had earlier met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in 2015, at the Paris climate summit later that year and during the Palestine president’s visit to India last year.
B Bala Bhaskar, joint secretary (west Asia and North Africa) in the external affairs ministry, said India had contributed immensely to Palestine’s nation-building efforts, including infrastructure development and capacity building.
The visit is also aimed at deepening the bilateral agenda, including co-operation in areas of health, IT, tourism, youth affairs, sports and agriculture.
Modi will also lay a wreath at the memorial for Yasser Arafat, a close friend of India who headed the Palestine Liberation Organisation and later the Palestinian National Authority till his death in 2004. India recognised the Palestine state in 1988.
Despite Modi’s personal camaraderie with Netanyahu, India voted in the UN General Assembly in December last year against US President Donald Trump’s unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
After his Palestine visit, Modi will reach Abu Dhabi today evening – his second visit after August 2015.
On the final leg, Modi will visit Muscat tomorrow before returning to Delhi the following day.
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