Gaza(PTI): External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Sunday said the entire Indian leadership remains steadfastly committed to the Palestinian cause as Palestine sought India’s participation in the West Asia peace process to help defuse crisis in the region.
Swaraj, who is on her first visit to West Asia as the External Affairs Minister, held talks with the top leadership here and reaffirmed India’s consistent support for the Palestinian cause, emphasising that there has been “absolutely no change in its policy in this regard”. Soon after crossing over from Israel from the Bituniya Checkpoint, Swaraj held talks with her counterpart Riyad al-Maliki. She also later called on President Mahmoud Abbas.
While inaugurating the India-Palestine Digital learning and Innovation centre at the Al Quds University here, Swaraj outlined three core tenets of India’s approach to Palestine — solidarity with Palestinian people, support to the Palestinian cause and support to Palestine’s nation building and capacity building efforts. “The entire Indian political leadership remains steadfastly committed to these policies. We are working for closer political interaction and deeper economic and academic engagement with Palestine,” she said.
During their meeting, al-Maliki told Swaraj, “India’s wisdom and political insight can be very useful in defusing tensions in the region.” The Palestinian Foreign Minister also called India a “good friend on whom the Palestinians can rely for support in many areas”.
Describing India as “not just a friend but a brother”, Abbas applauded New Delhi’s consistent support for the Palestinian cause. Abbas also hosted a lunch for Swaraj. The two sides held substantive discussions on bilateral and regional issues with the Palestinian side briefing Swaraj on the developments in the peace process. The Palestinian side also offered to step up cooperation with India in counter- terrorism.
Swaraj and al-Maliki discussed initiating a joint commission at the ministerial level to take forward bilateral cooperation. Al-Maliki also briefed Swaraj on the situation in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, officials said.
Talking about the India-Palestine Digital learning and Innovation centre, Swaraj said, “This is yet another example of India’s commitment to help Palestinian people.” “We will build another Center for Excellence in ICT and Innovation in Gaza City and a Techno Park in Ramallah,” she said.
“This is my first visit abroad in 2016 and Palestine is my first destination. India’s solidarity with Palestinians and principled support to the Palestinian cause is rooted in our own freedom struggle,” Swaraj asserted.
Tensions have been rising in West Asia with increasing attacks by Palestinians and firing by Israeli forces as Israel’s occupation of the West Bank continues with little progress in peace talks.