India's Modi plays diplomatic 'balancing act' in West Bank

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi completed a historic visit to the Middle East on Monday, a trip which took in Jordan, the occupied Palestinian territories, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman.

As the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the Palestinian territories (though only on a technicality, according to the Times of India), this visit has been seen as a diplomatic balancing act (CNN) between Israel and the Palestinians, as Modi seeks to work with both.

Modi first had a stopover in Jordan (NDTV) on February 9, where he met King Abdullah II to discuss India-Jordan relations. Jordan’s monarch described the meeting as the beginning of a new chapter in bilateral ties between the countries.

India’s Prime Minister then took a Jordanian helicopter, escorted by Israeli choppers, to the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Raveesh Kumar on Twitter

History in the making. In a first-ever visit by an Indian Prime Minister to Palestine, PM @narendramodi on the way to Ramallah in a chopper provided by Jordan government and escorted by choppers from Israel Air Force.

Modi’s visit returns a trip by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to Delhi in May 2017. After landing, Modi tweeted: “Reached Palestine. This is a historic visit that will lead to stronger bilateral cooperation.”

Modi laid a wreath (Hindustan Times) at the mausoleum of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and was later accorded a ceremonial guard of honor from the Palestinian army at the presidential headquarters in Ramallah.

Narendra Modi on Twitter

Abu Ammar was one of the greatest world leaders. His contribution to Palestine is historical. He was a good friend of India. I paid tributes to him in Ramallah.

Abbas conferred Modi with the “Grand Collar of the State of Palestine,” which is the highest order given to foreign dignitaries. The commendation said (New Indian Express) it was “in acknowledgement of [Modi’s] support to our people’s right to independence and freedom so that peace prevails in the region.”

The Indian Prime Minister said (Indian Express): I have assured President Abbas that India is bound by a promise to take care of Palestinian people’s interests. India hopes that soon Palestine will become a free country in a peaceful manner.” Later, the countries signed six infrastructure agreements (The Economic Times).

India was among more than 120 countries to vote in favor of a resolution in December calling for the United States to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

After Ramallah, Modi travelled to the Gulf to address the World Government Summit in Dubai and thousands of members of the Indian community in Oman.

In recent years, India has also developed a relationship with Israel (The Washington Times). In visit in January, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed (The Times of India) Modi as “a revolutionary leader in the best sense of the word.”

During that visit India and Israel signed nine agreements across several sectors to boost bilateral trade and cooperation. Israel will also invest $68.6 million (Indian Express) in India in areas such as tourism, technology, agriculture, and innovation over four years.

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