New Delhi: In an obvious balancing act ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s forthcoming visit to Israel, which is expected to take place within the next couple of months, India will be hosting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who will begin a four-day state visit to India from Sunday, even as New Delhi reiterated its support to the “Palestinian cause”. As per indications, PM Modi may not visit Palestine either before or after his visit to Israel. The Palestinian President’s invitation is taking place at the invitation of President Pranab Mukherjee who had visited both countries in 2015. Observers point out that India inevitably finds itself doing a tight-rope walk in its ties between the two feuding neighbours Israel and Palestine.
In a statement, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) said, “India and Palestine enjoy historically close and friendly ties. Apart from the political support to the Palestinian cause, India continues to support developmental projects in Palestine by extending technical and financial assistance. The visit will provide an opportunity for reviewing the entire gamut of bilateral relations, Middle East Peace Process, regional and international issues. MoUs on cooperation in various areas are expected to be signed during the visit.” The MEA also said, “This is the fifth visit and the third state visit to India by President Abbas. Earlier, he had substantive meetings with Prime Minister Modi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2015. During the visit, President Abbas will visit C-DAC in Noida on May 15 to forge cooperation between Palestine- India Techno Park. He will also visit India Islamic Cultural Centre in Delhi.”
The MEA added, “On May 16, President Abbas will be given a ceremonial guard of honour at Rashtrapati Bhavan followed by wreath laying by him at Mahatma Gandhi’s Samadhi, Raj Ghat. Rashtrapatiji (the President) will host a banquet in honour of H.E. Mahmoud Abbas. Delegation-level discussion with Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be held the same day. Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari and Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj will call on President Abbas during his stay in Delhi.’
Mr. Abbas’ visit to Pakistan in February this year followed by a scheduled visit to Bangladesh had then triggered speculation on why he did not visit New Delhi. Speculation was rife then whether Palestine is miffed with India’s close ties with Israel during the current tenure of the Modi Government. Just last year in November, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin had visited New Delhi. India enjoys close defence ties with Israel and there are reports that Prime Minister Narendra Modi may visit Israel in June or July this year.