Home India News India pledges support to Palestinian cause as peace hopes soar

India pledges support to Palestinian cause as peace hopes soar

By Arun Kumar, IANS

Annapolis : India expressed its continued commitment and support to the Palestinian cause as Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed at a US-backed meet here to negotiate a peace treaty by the end of 2008.

Minister of Science and Technology Kapil Sibal voiced New Delhi’s support, as Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced agreement to launch a one-year long negotiating process at the 40-nation Middle East Peace Conference Tuesday.

“In this noble endeavour the parties have declared that they need continuing encouragement and support from the international community. India is ready to play its due role in this collective endeavour to strengthen the forces of peace and stability in the region,” he said.

“India applauded the joint understanding between the two leaders to arrive at “a negotiated solution of the core issues that will lead to the establishment of an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state, living side by side in mutual peace and prosperity with the state of Israel,” Sibal said.

“We pay rich tribute to the courage, wisdom and statesmanship displayed by the Palestinian and Israeli leaderships to take risks in the cause of a just and lasting peace between two peoples who though divided by many complex and emotive issues are nevertheless joined by common geography and history,” he said.

Commending the “signal contribution” made by US President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “to facilitate this historic agreement” he said: “It proceeds on the assumption that violence and engagement are mutually incompatible.”

“It has been repeatedly emphasised in the Joint Understanding that the negotiations will be bilateral between the parties. This is as it should be,” Sibal said.

However, at the specific request by the parties, the US has agreed to assist them in the monitoring and judging the fulfilment of the commitments undertaken by both sides of the road map, he noted.

This should reassure the parties and help in creating an atmosphere of confidence. No one realises better than the two parties themselves how difficult the road ahead will be, Sibal said.

“Even with the best of intentions, it will require unprecedented determination, goodwill and capacity to offer and accept compromises and concessions, on both sides, if the objective enshrined in this Joint Understanding is to be achieved.”

Noting with satisfaction that the Middle East peace process will address the unfinished agenda on the Lebanon and Syria tracks, Sibal said: “The Arab Peace Initiative, re-launched in Saudi Arabia in March this year, provides a constructive framework for achieving such a comprehensive peace.”

India’s support to the Palestinian cause can be traced to the days of its freedom struggle, he said.

“This support has not wavered. We recognised the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people in 1975 and were one of the first countries to recognise the state of Palestine in 1988.

India recognised the state of Israel soon after its creation. With the establishment of full diplomatic relations in 1992, New Delhi has developed close and friendly relations with Israel, Sibal noted.

West Asia is part of India’s extended neighbourhood with which it has had a close interaction over millennia, the minister said. “Consequently, we have deep interest in peace and stability in the region.”

Later at a meeting with Abbas, Sibal reiterated India’s continued commitment and support for the Palestinian cause.

Abbas expressed great satisfaction about the Indian delegation’s participation at the conference. He shared with Sibal his assessment of the outcome of the conference and briefed him in detail about the procedures and working methods for conducting future negotiations.

Abbas expressed his deep appreciation to India for all the assistance it has extended to the Palestine National Authority so far.

Sibal assured him that India would be very happy to continue this cooperation in all areas desired by Palestinian authorities. In particular, he emphasised India’s willingness to help in providing assistance in the field of police training and institution-building and human resource development.

Abbas said he was looking forward to India’s participation in the Donors Meeting to be convened in Paris in December.

Sibal, who is accompanied by the prime minister’s special envoy for West Asia, Chinmaya R. Gharekhan, returns home Wednesday at the end of the three-day conclave.

Sibal also had meetings with Brazilian and South African foreign ministers Celso Amorin and Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and secretary general of the Arab League Amre Moussa in Washington Monday.