January 27, 2018
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – AFP
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting three countries in the West Asia and Gulf region including Palestine, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman from 9 to 12 February, the Indian foreign ministry announced on Saturday.
Modi’s visit to Palestine is his first since taking office in 2014. And it’s a standalone visit to Ramallah that comes after a similar visit to Israel last year— the first ever by an Indian prime minister in seven decades. The visit to Palestine also comes after Modi hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on six day visit to India between 14-19 January as the two countries marked the completion of 25 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
Modi has previously played host to Palestinian President Mahmood Abbas—in May last year—just before his visit to Israel in July.
The visits indicate that India’s Israel and Palestine policies will run independent of each other on separate tracks, say Indian foreign ministry officials and analysts.
An example of this was India voting for an Arab sponsored resolution that rejected US President Donald Trump’s move to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital despite its close ties with Israel. Israeli diplomats in New Delhi did convey their protests over the vote but it was kept under wraps and did not cast a shadow over Netanyahu’s visit.
Besides Palestine, Modi will be attending the World Government Summit in the UAE where he has been accorded “guest of honour” status. This is his second visit to the Emirates. Modi had previously visited the UAE in August 2015.
On the last leg of his trip, Modi will visit Oman, a key country situated on the rim of the Indian Ocean region and a member of the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative.
“During the visit, the Prime Minister will hold discussions on matters of mutual interest with their leaders, apart from participating in other events,” the foreign ministry statement said.
Both the UAE and Oman are key for the Indian economy given that a number of expatriate Indians live and work there sending back valuable foreign remittance. The UAE is a key source of energy for India as well as investments.