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Palestine to ask India to replace US as sole mediator in negotiations with Israel, says official

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Palestine to ask India to replace US as sole mediator in negotiations with Israel, says official

In the decades of bonhomie between India and the Palestinians, including with the chief of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation Yasser Arafat – and despite India being one of the first nations to recognise the Palestinian area as an autonomous region, virtually a nation – no Indian Prime Minister had ever set foot on that soil; neither on the West Bank, nor on the Gaza Strip. Till Saturday (February 10), when Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Ramallah in the West Bank and held bilateral talks with President Mahmoud Abbas.

India’s idea is to reaffirm India’s support for the Palestinian people, and that is important in the backdrop of the massive Indian relationship build-up with Israel soon after the BJP dispensation took over the country.

What Palestine expects from India

The influential Arab News daily has quoted a senior official as saying that President Abbas will ask Modi to support a multi-country sponsorship that would replace the United States as the sole mediator in future Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

The daily quoted Palestinian official Nabil Shaath as saying that Modi is to hold talks with Abbas and sign cooperation agreements worth about $50 million.

Abbas has sought European and Arab support for replacing the US as the sole Mideast mediator.

Backchannel diplomacy

Indian diplomats have been continuing backchannel talks with the Palestinians and each time Modi meets Israeli Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a corresponding talk session with Abbas is organised. Before the recent visit of Netanyahu to India, a visit of Abbas to India was quickly finalised and gone through. The diplomatic balance has been kept, somewhat, though the earlier close friendship with the Palestinians may have eased.

When Modi first visited Israel last year, he did not go to Ramallah. That had created a diplomatic storm and a huge belief that India was abandoning its long-time friend and turning its back on its people. Indian diplomats have almost set this right thereafter Abbas’ recent comment that India can play a major role in the complicated politics of West Asia would certainly precent relations from de-hinging.

One has to remember that this trip of Modi comes within the confusion that US President Donald Trump has created by unilaterally declaring that US would be shifting its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, acknowledging the disputed city as Israel’s capital.

India has so far refrained from commenting on this development, and how Modi will be dealing with this if asked a direct question is to be seen.

The basic idea of an Indian trip here – it is the first leg of a three-nation trip, the other countries being the USE (Riyadh) and Oman (Muscat) – is to stress on India’s de-hyphenating of relationship with Israel and Palestine. India does not want to be burdened with old baggage and wants to start a new process in the region.

The 82-year-old President of Palestine is a respected politician and he has said recently: “We will discuss the recent updates with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the recent developments in the peace process, the bilateral relations, and the regional situations, and the possible role India can play in enhancing peace in the region, as well as discussing different economical aspects beyond the existing ties we already possess.”

That is easier said than done, because India’s sudden involvement in the area could lead to a deterioration of relations with Israel, especially with several technical (including defence) tie-ups having already been signed. It has also to be understood that India’s position, vis-a-vis the region has undergone a sea change. Palestine is waiting for huge investments in real estate development, in water resources and energy development, apart from small industries that can provide employment within the regions without their youth having to travel into the walled area of Israel to earn a living.

On his trip Modi will lay a wreath at the Mausoleum of Arafat. During this he will be accompanied by his Palestinian counterpart Rami Hamdallah.

Hs will also visit the Arafat Museum before being received in a ceremony by President Abbas.

The travel to Ramallah for Modi was not direct. His plane landed in Amman, Jordan, from where he took a helicopter to Ramallah. He will return by the same route before leaving for Riyadh. However, he will not be moving into Jordan on this trip.

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Sri Lankan Minister Douglas Devananda says statements on reclaiming Katchatheevu island from Sri Lanka have no ground

Devananda told the media on Thursday that it is not unusual to hear such claims and counterclaims about Katchatheevu as elections are taking place in India.

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Sri Lankan Minister Douglas Devananda has said the statements from some political leaders in India on reclaiming Katchatheevu from the island nation have no ground. He told the media on Thursday that it is not unusual to hear such claims and counterclaims about the strategic island as elections are taking place in India.

The Sri Lankan Minister said he thought India is acting on its interests to secure this place to ensure Sri Lankan fishermen would not have any access to that area and that Sri Lanka should not claim any rights in that resourceful area. According to the 1974 agreement, Devananda said Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen can go fishing in the territorial waters of both countries until the pact was reviewed and amended in 1976.

The amended agreement resulted in fishermen from both countries being barred from fishing in neighboring waters. India’s ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Thursday steered clear of the row surrounding Katchatheevu island. To a volley of questions on the Katchatheevu issue, MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal reffered to External affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s recent comments on the matter.

He said he would like to talk about the issue that has been raised. He added the External Affairs minister has spoken to the press here in Delhi and also in Gujarat and has clarified all the issues. He said everyone should look into the press engagements and they would find the answers to their questions there.

The remarks from Devananda, a Sri Lankan Tamil, came days after the Narendra Modi government accused the Congress and its ally DMK in Tamil Nadu of overlooking national interests by handing over Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka in 1974. The BJP has also been slamming the 2 parties for not ensuring the rights of the fishermen wanting to fish in waters around the island.

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US reiterates its call for fair, transparent, legal process for Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, speaks on Congress frozen accounts

The US spokesperson said that they are also aware of the Congress party’s allegations that tax authorities have frozen some of their bank accounts in a manner that will make it challenging to effectively campaign in the upcoming elections.

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A day after India summoned an US diplomat over their remarks on the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the liquor policy case, the US reiterated its call for fair, transparent, timely legal processes on Wednesday.

Responding to questions on India summoning Gloria Berbena, the US Acting Deputy Chief of Mission in New Delhi, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said that they will continue to follow these actions closely, including the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Notably, the meeting at the foreign ministry’s South Block office lasted nearly 40 minutes yesterday with India objecting strongly to the US remarks on the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal.

Matthew Miller also responded to a question on the Congress party’s frozen bank accounts. The US spokesperson said that they are also aware of the Congress party’s allegations that tax authorities have frozen some of their bank accounts in a manner that will make it challenging to effectively campaign in the upcoming elections. He added that the US encourages fair, transparent and timely legal processes for each of the issues.

Arvind Kejriwal was arrested last week by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection to the Delhi liquor policy scam. Earlier, AAP leaders Manish Sisodia, Satyendar Jain and Sanjay Singh were arrested in the same case.

The External Affairs Ministry had earlier stated that states are expected to be respectful of the sovereignty and internal affairs of others, and this responsibility is even more so in case of fellow democracies, adding that it could otherwise end up setting unhealthy precedents.

The Ministry further emphasized that India’s legal processes are based on an independent judiciary which is committed to objective and timely outcomes. It mentioned that casting aspersions on India’s legal procedure is unwarranted.

The United State’s remarks followed days after Germany’s Foreign Office stressed that Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is entitled to a fair and impartial trial. The Indian government labelled their remark as blatant interference in internal matters.

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5 Chinese nationals killed in suicide bomb attack in Pakistan

This is the third major attack on Chinese interests in Pakistan within a week.

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Nearly five Chinese nationals were killed in an explosion during an attack on their convoy by a suicide bomber in northwest Pakistan on Tuesday. Reportedly, the suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a convoy of Chinese engineers travelling from Islamabad to their camp in Dasu, situated in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Regional police chief Mohammad Ali Gandapur said that five Chinese nationals and their Pakistani driver were killed in the attack. As yet, none has claimed responsibility for the attack. Bisham Station House Officer (SHO) Bakht Zahir asserted that the incident was a suicide blast and the authorities concerned were collecting the evidence.

The Station House Officer further added that security arrangements were tightened at the spot and the bodies were being shifted to a hospital. He added that they will investigate from where and how the vehicle of a suicide bomber came and how it happened. Notably, this is the third major attack on Chinese interests in Pakistan within a week.

Previously, two attacks hit an airbase and a strategic port in the southwest province of Balochistan where China is investing billions in infrastructure projects. Several Chinese engineers and Pakistani construction workers have for multiple years been working on hydroelectric projects as part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative in the western province of Khyber-Paktunkhwa.

Notably, Dasu is home to a significant dam project, has been a target of previous attacks. Earlier in 2021, the attack in Dasu resulted in the deaths of nine Chinese nationals, along with two Pakistani children. The incident occured when a bus carrying Chinese engineers and workers to the Dasu Hydropower Project site was targeted.

There was confusion surrounding the nature of the attack initially, with some reports suggesting it was a bus accident. Nonetheless, subsequent investigations revealed that it was indeed a terrorist attack. The bus was hit by a blast, leading it to plunge into a ravine.

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