SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF INDIA, SMT. PRATIBHA DEVISINGH PATIL AT THE BANQUET IN HONOUR OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE PALESTINIAN NATIONAL AUTHORITY, H.E. MAHMOUD ABBAS
New Delhi, 7th October 2008
Your Excellency, President Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to extend a warm welcome to you, Excellency, and to the distinguished members of your delegation on your State Visit to India.
India's cherished friendship with the Palestinian people is based on ties spanning almost every aspect - political, cultural, social, religious and economic. This, your second visit, marks another important step in further strengthening the age-old ties of friendship, solidarity and cooperation that have always characterised relations between India and Palestine.
India's position on the Palestinian question and its solidarity with the Palestinian people has been unambiguously articulated since the days of our own freedom struggle and is a matter of historical record. At the United Nations, we were one of the eleven members of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine. India did not favour the idea of the partition of Palestine and went on to vote against the Partition Resolution that was eventually passed by the UN General Assembly in November, 1947. When Partition was nevertheless decided upon by the United Nations, we recognised the State of Israel.
In 1975, India became the first country outside the Arab world to recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. On the 26th of March, 1980, our Parliamentarians - the representatives of the people of India - gathered in Parliament, cheered when it was announced that India had decided to accord full diplomatic recognition to the PLO Office in New Delhi. Two days later, Chairman Yasser Arafat began an official visit to India, happily the first of many that he and you, Excellency, have honoured us with.
In 1988, India recognized the State of Palestine. In 1996, we opened a Representative Office to the State of Palestine.
For India, commitment to the Palestinian cause has been an important part of foreign policy and has been manifested in the continuous and consistent support to its issues in the Non Aligned Movement, in the United Nations and in other international fora. In keeping with India's support to the peace process in West Asia in all its tracks, India has always supported the Palestinian people in realizing their legitimate aspirations for a sovereign, independent and viable State, existing side by side in peace with Israel within secure and recognised borders. To that end, India has underlined its support for the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet Road Map and has repeatedly called for the implementation of relevant resolutions of the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly.
I commend the indomitable spirit of the Palestinian people and reaffirm India's principled and unwavering support to their just cause. We have always considered that the conflict in West Asia is essentially political in nature and, therefore, cannot be resolved by force. In recent times, India has supported the resumption of direct negotiations between Palestine and Israel. As you are aware, Excellency, India participated at the Annapolis Conference last November. Like you, we feel it is necessary to sustain the tempo of talks and negotiations on all important issues, including that of the return of Palestinian refugees.
There had been a deep sense of anguish among numerous Indian well-wishers of Palestine over the violence in Gaza and the West Bank earlier this year. There has been disquiet, too, over the many privations suffered, including in Gaza, as a result of check-points and road-blocks. The separation wall, dividing communities and even families, is a blot on the human conscience. On many of these issues, we have expressed our views to our friends in your neighbourhood. That there is no role for violence cannot be over-emphasised.
India has over the years extended support and assistance to Palestine and its people in their continuing endeavour of nation-building. This has been in the form of grants towards developmental projects, the establishment of educational and training facilities, support for capacity building and humanitarian relief.
I am happy to learn that during this visit, you would be laying the foundation stone at the Palestinian Embassy building at Chanakyapuri, here in New Delhi. This, gift from India, is symbolic of the progress in the enduring friendship between our two countries and peoples.
I have no doubt that your visit will afford us yet another opportunity to renew our solidarity with you and with your people in your march towards regaining your rights and also will further contribute to the development of our relations in all fields for our mutual benefit.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
May I request you to join me in a toast to the: -
- good health and happiness of His Excellency President Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian National Authority;
- prosperity and development of the State of Palestine and its friendly people; and
- abiding friendship and cooperation between India and Palestine.