India gifts embassy to Palestine, pledge $20 million aid

October 7th, 2008 - 9:02 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 7 (IANS) In a gesture reaffirming unwavering commitment to the Palestinian cause, India Tuesday announced an assistance of $20 million to the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and gifted it a new embassy that is being built in the heart of the capital’s diplomatic enclave.Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held talks with PNA President Mahmoud Abbas, who is on a four-day state visit to India, on a wide range of subjects, including the peace process in West Asia.

The two leaders laid the foundation stone of the chancery-cum-residence complex of the embassy of Palestine and formally dedicated the building “to the people of Palestine as a gift from the people of India”.

“I reiterated to President Abbas India’s consistent support to a negotiated solution to the Palestine issue,” Manmohan Singh said at a function organized at the ground of the the proposed chancery-cum-residence complex at Chanakyapuri area.

“India believes that the solution should be based on the relevant United Nations resolution, the Arab Peace Plan and the chartered roadmap resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united state of Palestine living in a secure border, side by side with Israel,” stressed Manmohan Singh.

He also announced a grant of $10 million as budgetary support to the PNA to help meet its immediate requirements and another $10 million dollars as assistance for development projects.

An agreement on the construction of a school in the name of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru in Abu Dees in Palestine was also signed between the two sides.

Thanking India for its consistent support to the Palestinian cause, Abbas said: “I would like to be very frank and say that India has given help and assistance to Palestine without asking for any favour in return.

“India is playing an important role in all fields (concerning Palestine), including the peace process… We appreciate India’s support,” Abbas said.

A Palestinian spokesman said: “The two leaders discussed a range of issues including chalking a roadmap for future cooperation and developmental works in Palestine.”

Abbas’ visit comes at a time when the West Asia peace process is under strain even as India is increasingly seen as a credible interlocutor by Palestine and Israel due to its excellent relations with both sides.

However, a cautious India, which was among the first countries to recognize the declaration of the state of Palestine in 1988, has refrained from getting directly involved so far.

With some political opponents accusing the Manmohan Singh government of betraying the Palestinian cause, New Delhi has designated Abbas’ trip as “state visit” to underline its special ties with the Palestinian people.

PNA Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki and other senior officials are accompanying Abbas on this state visit to India.

Abbas also met President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Leader of Opposition L.K. Advani.

The visit is seen as a balancing exercise by New Delhi in view of its rapid expansion of diplomatic, military and trade ties with Tel Aviv since it recognized Israel in 1992. Israel is now the second largest arms supplier to India after Russia.

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