Ramallah: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday backed a "sovereign and independent Palestine" and spoke about India's hopes for return of peace in the region as he wrapped up his "historic" visit to Palestine, the first by an Indian Prime Minister.
PM Modi spent around three hours on this visit that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, has described as "significant".
"People of Palestine have continuously shown exemplary courage in extremely tough times, in spite of the fact that there was an unstable environment. The way you moved forward in such a situation is praiseworthy, we appreciate it", Prime Minister Modi said.
"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", Modi said.
PM Modi had skipped Palestine when he had visited Israel in July 2017 to signal his government's decision to treat New Delhi's relations with the two countries as "mutually independent and exclusive".
In Ramallah that serves as the de facto capital of Palestine, PM Modi headed straight to the memorial of former President Yasser Arafat where he laid a wreath. Accompanied by President Abbas, he also visited the Yasser Arafat Museum.
After their discussions, President Abbas conferred the "Grand Collar of the State of Palestine" on PM Modi in special recognition of his contribution to enhancing relations between India and Palestine.
"This is a historic visit that will lead to stronger bilateral cooperation," Modi tweeted shortly after landing in Palestine.
Modi had taken a chopper from the Jordanian capital of Amman, where he had spent the night, to reach Ramallah.
In 2015, then Indian President Pranab Mukherjee had flown to Israel and travelled by road to Ramallah. Mukerjee had, after an overnight stay at the Palestinian city, started his visit to Israel.
It was with PM Modi's stand-alone visit to Israel last July that New Delhi ended this practice of dignitaries who visit Israel, also traveling to Palestine.
"We have de-hyphenated our relations with Palestine and Israel and now we see them both as mutually independent and exclusive and as part of this policy the prime minister is undertaking this visit," B Bala Bhaskar, joint secretary in India’s foreign ministry, said.
On Friday, Modi met King Abdullah of Jordan in Amman.
"Had a wonderful meeting with King Abdullah II of Jordan. Our discussions today will give great strength to India-Jordan bilateral relations," Modi tweeted on Friday.
Later, Modi left for the United Arab Emirates, where he is set to meet Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
He is also expected to speak at the World Government Summit in Dubai, where India is the guest country.
PM Modi will visit Oman for the first time as prime minister and will hold talks with the Sultan of Oman and other top leaders.
He would also interact with leading businesspersons of Oman on developing stronger economic and business links with India.
More than nine million Indians work and live in the Gulf region, of which about one third live in the UAE alone. In Oman, they constitute the largest expatriate community, he noted.
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