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India pledges $41m in aid for Palestinians during PM visit

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi (L) and President of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas hold a joint press conference in Ramallah, West Bank on 10 February 2018 [İssam Rimawi/Anadolu Agency]

Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi pledged $41 million of aid to the Palestinians during a meeting with President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

Modi’s visit to Ramallah, the first by an Indian leader, was also marked by statements promising increased cooperation between the two states, with the prime minister affirming that he was “committed to Palestinian national rights” and that “support for the Palestinian cause has been one of the mainstays of our foreign policy”.

Abbas further called on India to support its drive for a multi-lateral sponsorship of any future peace negotiations. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has rejected the US as the sole mediator of the conflict following President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

“We never have and never will reject negotiations,” said Abbas. “We consider a multi-lateral mechanism that emerges from an international peace conference as the ideal way to sponsor the negotiations.”

“Here we count on India, with its status as a great power, its historical role in the non-aligned movement and in international forums … to achieve a just peace.”

Read: Why do Israel and Palestine matter equally to Indian diplomacy?

Modi laid a wreath at Abbas’ predecessor Yasser Arafat’s grave and toured the Arafat Museum prior to talks with his Palestinian counterpart. India’s promised aid will reportedly contribute to the construction of a hospital, three schools and other projects in the West Bank.

The Indian prime minister’s brief visit is thought to be an attempt to compensate the Palestinians, after Modi did not schedule a meeting with the PA during his official trip to Israel last year. India also hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for six days last month, the latest move in a warming of ties between the two countries.

Israel has become a major defence supplier to India, selling an average of $1 billion of military equipment each year and took part in the first joint military drill in November. Visa restrictions between the two countries have also been eased, with India announcing that it has reduced its investment in Iran in favour of Israel.

Tourism from India to Israel is also reportedly at an all-time high, with Air India signing a contract with Israeli airlines El Al last month to launch direct flights between Delhi and Tel Aviv, passing through Saudi airspace.

Israel is also attempting to sell itself as a filmmaking destination, with Netanyahu wooing Bollywood actors and producers at a star studded event last month entitled “Shalom Bollywood”.

Read: India reportedly backtracks from cancelling missile deal with Israel

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