India will host Palestinian president before PM Narendra Modi heads for Israel

NEW DELHI:India will host Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in a diplomatic balancing act before Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads for Israel towards the middle of this year for the first visit by an Indian head of government to Tel Aviv since establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations in 1992.

Furthering strategic ties with West Asia has been a priority for the BJP-led NDA government. It has walked the extra mile to engage the Arab countries as well as Iran, even as it has consolidated relations with Israel, with an aim to create an antiterror narrative and secure its energy and human resources in the region. While Abbas has visited India in the past this will be his maiden trip to India since the Modi government assumed office in May 2014. During the tenure of this government President Pranab Mukherjee visited Palestine along with Israel in 2015 in keeping with India’s longstanding principle of a twostate solution to end the protracted crisis in the region.

Abbas will be making a standalone trip to India, without including Pakistan, which he visited separately recently. Strategic affairs analysts said that most leaders from West Asia, Gulf and Egypt are increasingly undertaking standalone trips to India. The de-hyphenation comes in the backdrop of India’s growing economic profile and rising threats from terror groups that also have a presence in the Af-Pak region.

The visit will be held in the backdrop of the first Indo-Palestinian Joint Commission meeting last year and India’s participation in a conference on Israel and Palestine organised by France in Paris. India is expected to extend further assistance to Palestinian capacity-building during Abbas’ visit besides exploring business ties, people familiar with the developments said.

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