Indian FM starts Israel visit at Arafat's grave

Sushma Swaraj starts visit in 'Palestine' before Israel, vowing 'solidarity with Palestinian people' a day before meeting Netanyahu.

Ari Yashar,

Indian FM Sushma Swaraj places wreath at Arafat's grave
Indian FM Sushma Swaraj places wreath at Arafat's grave
Reuters

Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj began her visit to Israel on Sunday by first stopping in "Palestine," and placing a wreath at the mausoleum of arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat in Ramallah before meeting Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Monday morning.

Arafat, who was born in Egypt, founded the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) terrorist group and led Fatah, and is held responsible for many murderous attacks over the decades that killed countless Israelis.

Swaraj's visit follows the historic first visit to Israel by an Indian President last October when President Pranab Mukherjee stopped by, and her choice to honor Arafat may raise concerns given the ever growing alliance between Israel and India.

The Indian Foreign Minister went directly to Ramallah in Samaria on Sunday, meeting with Palestinian Authority (PA) foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki and telling him that regarding India's support for the Palestinian cause there has been "absolutely no change in its policy in this regard."

"We are working for closer political interaction and deeper economic and academic engagement with Palestine," said Swaraj, to which al-Maliki replied: "India’s wisdom and political insight can be very useful in defusing tensions in the region."

Al-Maliki also called India a "good friend on whom the Palestinians can rely for support in many areas."

Swaraj then visited PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who said India is "not just a friend but a brother," before honoring Arafat.

First destination: "Palestine"

She also visited Al Quds University, which has publicly supported terror on several occasions, where she inaugurated the India-Palestine Digital Learning and Innovation Center, according to The Hindu.

There she outlined three principles of India's policy regarding "Palestine," including solidarity with the Palestinian Arabs, support of the Palestinian cause, and support of nation-building and capacity-building efforts.

Before Swaraj's arrival, her External Affairs Ministry spokesperson issued a statement regarding her choice to visit the PA first.

"This is the first visit of External Affairs Minister to West Asia region and Palestine is the first destination in the region, which in itself reflects the importance India holds for Palestine in its engagement with the countries of the region," he said, according to the Indian The Tribune.

Then on Monday Swaraj visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, before meeting with President Reuven Rivlin, Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Infrastructure Minister Yuval Steinitz, and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely.

The Indian Foreign Minister is also to meet members of the Bnei Menashe community of Jews who have recently returned to Israel from the Indian region. 

"India's relations with Israel are part of its engagement with the broader West Asia region and are independent to its relations with any country in the region. The visit will augment India's bilateral relations with Israel and further strengthen the linkages between the two sides," said a statement by the Indian Minister of External Affairs ahead of the visit.




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