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Modi’s attempts at balance fall short

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas decorates Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Grand Collar of the State of Palestine medal, during his visit to the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Saturday. (AP)
AMMAN: The optics and the words surrounding the first-ever visit by an Indian head of state to Ramallah in Palestine were perfect, but that did not erase the feeling that the visit was intended to give the appearance of balance in an unbalanced conflict.
India, which had only recognized Israel in the 1970s, is now one of its biggest security partners. The Israeli and Indian leaders have exchanged multi-day state visits, with the Palestinians getting a mere three-hour visit to the temporary Palestinian capital. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Ramallah on a special Jordanian military helicopter from Amman.
Mahdi Abdul Hadi, a senior Palestinian political scientist from Jerusalem, told Arab News that the visit was a symbolic one, and nothing more.
“India recognized Palestine in 1988 and has stood with Palestine on the issue of Jerusalem in the UNESCO, and the history of the non-aligned movement is well-known but the present situation is different.”
Hadi said the huge multibillion-dollar security deal with Israel and the warm relations between both sides make this balancing act look “rather superficial.”
Modi hit all the markers in his visit to Palestine. He made the visit by way of Jordan and without any connection to Israel. He visited the grave of India’s beloved Palestinian leader, paying his respects to the late President Yasser Arafat. And he participated with dignity in the official welcoming ceremony laid on by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the presence of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and the entire Palestinian Cabinet as well as Muslim and Christian leaders.
On his official Twitter account, Modi said that the trip is part of a three-country multilateral visit that will also include the UAE and Oman.
The Indian prime minister will ink a number of agreements, including financial support for the creation of a Palestinian diplomatic institute as well as agreements in the fields of health, education, culture and women’s empowerment. Modi will signal the increase of Palestinians’ higher education scholarships to 100 students up from the current 50. The four signed agreements amount to $41 million, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA said.
After a meeting with Abbas, Modi called for peace and stability in Palestine: “I have assured President Abbas that India is bound by a promise to take care of the Palestinian people’s interests. India hopes that soon Palestine will become a free country in a peaceful manner.”
Abbas awarded the visiting Indian leader the Grand Collar of the state of Palestine and a special commendation that read: “This is an honor for India and a symbol of Palestine’s friendship.” Abbas also stated the Palestinians’ commitment to political action and negotiations “as means of achieving our national goals to freedom and independence in accordance with the two states’ relations along the lines of 1967.”

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