Ramallah: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is currently touring West Asia, on Saturday batted for a sovereign and independent Palestine in his maiden visit to the country.
''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 come a free country in a peaceful manner,'' PM Modi said in Ramallah.
During his speech, PM Modi also said that India's hopes for a return of peace in the region as he wrapped up his "historic" visit to Palestine - the first by an Indian Prime Minister.
"We know that it's not easy, but we should keep striving because a lot is at stake," he said.
The two sides also signed agreements worth around USD 50 million that includes setting up of a USD 30 million super speciality hospital after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received Prime Minister Modi in an official ceremony at the presidential compound, also known as Muqata'a, in Ramallah - the Palestinian seat of government.
On his part, President Abbas acknowledged that the Indian leadership has always stood by peace in Palestine. Abbas said Palestine is always ready to engage in negotiations to achieve its goal of an independent state. He asked India to facilitate the peace process with Israel.
"We rely on India's role as an international voice of great standing and weigh through its historical role in the Non-Aligned Movement and in all international forum and its increasingly growing power on the strategic and economic levels, in a way that is conducive to just and desired peace in our region," said President Abbas.
The two sides signed agreements worth USD 50 million. The agreement includes setting up of a super speciality hospital worth USD 30 million in Beit Sahur and construction of a centre for empowering women worth USD 5 million.
Three agreements in the education sector worth USD 5 million and for procurement of equipment and machinery for the National Printing Press in Ramallah were also signed.
PM Modi conferred Grand Collar of State of Palestine
In recognition of his contribution to ties with Palestine, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was earlier conferred The Grand Collar of the State of Palestine, the highest Palestinian honour for foreign dignitaries, by Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas here on Saturday.
"In a special recognition of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's contribution to relations between India and Palestine, President Abbas conferred the Grand Collar of the State of Palestine on him after the conclusion of their bilateral meeting," the MEA tweeted.
In a significant gesture, President Abbas conferred PM @narendramodi with Grand Collar Honour, which is Palestine's highest honour, in recognition of PM's wise leadership. PM termed the award as an honour for the people of India. pic.twitter.com/OV9KZiCqjl
— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) February 10, 2018
The Grand Collar is the highest order given to foreign dignitaries - Kings, Heads of State/Government and persons of similar rank.
"In recognition of his wise leadership and his lofty national and international stature, and in appreciation of his efforts to promote the historic relations between the State of Palestine and the Republic of India," the award commendation reads.
"In acknowledgement of his support to our people's right independence and freedom so that peace prevails in our region," it read further.
Earlier in the day, Modi was presented a Guard of Honour at the Presidential Palace soon after his arrival here from Amman, Jordan, in what is the first ever prime ministerial visit from India to Palestine.
He also laid a wreath at the mausoleum of Yasser Arafat, the Chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and the first President of the Palestinian Authority.
This was the fourth meeting between Modi and Abbas after those on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in 2015, at the Paris climate summit later that year and during the Palestinian President's visit to India last year.
The visit will reaffirm India's foreign policy position that its relationship with one country is independent of its ties with a third country and will de-hyphenate Israel and Palestine after Modi's standalone visit to Israel in July last year.
Palestine is the first leg of Modi's three-nation tour of West Asia that will also see him going to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman.
(With Agency Inputs)