Defying US, India backs Palestine, reiterates ties with Iran

By Arun Kumar, IANS,

United Nations: Sticking to its long-held stands despite pressure, India has voiced public support for a historic Palestinian bid for UN membership and reiterated its relationship with Iran – two issues on which it differs diametrically from the United States.

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India’s backing for the Palestinian cause despite US opposition came hours after Palestinian President Mahoud Abbas put forth a historic bid Friday for UN membership for an independent state of Palestine.

In fact, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could well voice his support for the Palestinian aspirations in his address to the UN General Assembly Saturday, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai hinted Friday.

“Our position on the Palestinian issue is an established position. It is well known that as far back as 1988, we recognised the Palestinian State. So you should not be surprised if there is a reiteration of that,” he said even as he declined to preview the Prime Minister’s speech.

At their meeting Friday after Abbas’ historic bid, both Manmohan Singh and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also “reiterated their support for the Palestinian attempt to seek membership of UN,” Mathai noted.

Similarly reiteration of close ties with Tehran came just a day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad triggered a US-led Western walkout from the UN General Assembly with a combative speech.

“The previously planned meeting basically focused on our bilateral relationship,” Mathai said brushing away a suggestion that the meeting with Ahmadinejad coupled with Indian support for Palestine – could impact New Delhi’s ties with Washington.

He was also quick to reassure that Manmohan Singh’s meeting with the Iranian leader and India’s support for Palestine and the absence of a meeting with President Barack Obama did not reflect a cooling of ties between India and the US.

Like other Indian officials before, he too attributed the reason for Manmohan Singh not meeting Obama to “the fact that the Prime Minister arrived after the President left.”

But India and the US are planning a meeting between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton possibly Monday after Manmohan Singh leaves for home.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at [email protected])