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Speech of MOS(ST) on the occasion of “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”

December 02, 2009

Your Excellency, the Ambassador of Palestine in India, Mr. Adli Hassan Shaban Sadeq,
Chief Representative, League of Arab States Mission, Dr. Ahmed Salem Saleh Al-Wahishi
Director General of the Indian Council of World Affairs, Shri Sudhir Devare
Excellencies, distinguished invitees,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am greatly honoured to be here today amidst this august gathering to mark the important occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. All of us present here, representing diverse nations, in our own ways are here to express solidarity with the people of Palestine in their struggle for their legitimate rights. Our gestures of support also convey that it is in the interest of the entire international community that a just and comprehensive solution can be achieved resulting in a sovereign, independent, viable and united State of Palestine living within secure and recognized borders with East Jerusalem as its Capital, side by side and at peace with the State of Israel, as endorsed in the Quartet Road Map and the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1397 & 1515. India has also supported the Arab Peace Plan as outlined in the 2002 Arab Summit held in Beirut and the 2007 Arab Summit in Riyadh. In line with its backing of the UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, India supports a negotiated solution to the West Asian conflict, which, it is convinced, is essentially political in nature and cannot be resolved by force.

As a responsible member of the international community and as a country with long-established ties with West Asia, India also desires to see a resolution to tensions in the region through dialogue. Continued expansion of settlements is not helpful to the resumption of the peace process. We hope to see early resumption of negotiations. We are concerned and welcome efforts to invigorate the peace process. Although we do not play a role as such in the peace process as we have not been requested to do so, we have vital stakes in the process and in the West Asian region. India is closely monitoring the developments in the region which is also home to more than 4.5 million Indians and as Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru said in 1958 in a speech in the Lok Sabha, our "approach is not inimical to any country there”.

Excellencies,

Palestine has always occupied a special place in the hearts of my countrymen. India’s solidarity with the Palestinian people and its approach to the Palestinian question were guided by that apostle of peace, Mahatma Gandhi, and the struggle that he inspired for our independence. As early as in 1936, the Congress Working Committee sent greetings to Palestine and 27 September, 1936 was observed in India as Palestine Day. The 1939 Session of the Indian National Congress adopted a Resolution on Palestine and looked forward to the emergence of an independent democratic state in Palestine in which the rights of all communities would be protected. Our former Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was a passionate advocate of the rights of the Palestinian people.

India was the first non-Arab State to recognize the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people in 1975 and in 1988 became one of the first countries to recognize the State of Palestine. India opened its Representative Office in Palestine in 1996 in Ramallah following the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority.

India has always stood by the Palestinian people in pursuit of their legitimate goals and their efforts aimed at economic and social development with dignity and self reliance. Since the opening of the Representative Office in Ramallah, India has also extended material assistance to the Palestinian National Authority. Such assistance has been utilized for humanitarian relief, development projects, establishment of educational and training facilities, budgetary support and so on. India has been proud to be involved with training a large number of Palestinian officials from economic, industrial and financial sectors and special courses for Palestinian diplomats have been conducted at our Foreign Service Institute. As you may be aware, this year the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA, is celebrating its 60th anniversary. India has increased its annual contribution from twenty thousand dollars to one million dollars. I am also happy to note that the Palestinian Embassy Building in New Delhi is nearing completion. The foundation stone of the Building was laid in the presence of Hon’ble Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and His Excellency the President of the Palestinian National Authority Mr. Mahmoud Abbas during his visit to India in October 2008.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before I conclude, I would like to commend the Indian Council for World Affairs for organizing this event to mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. In a message for the occasion organized at the United Nations in New York, the Prime Minister has said that India remains convinced that lasting peace in the region will contribute to global stability and prosperity. As Amb. Aziz has mentioned to us, no one quantifies the costs of the absence of peace in this vital region.

Thank you all also for being here today. I am looking forward to hearing the poetry of the late great Palestinian poet Mahmood Darwish of whom I am a great fan. But I will end with the words of another late Palestinian writer, my friend, Edward Said, who wrote in his essay "Overlapping Territories, Intertwined Histories”, "Just as none of us is outside or beyond geography, none of us is completely free from the struggle over geography. That struggle is complex and interesting because it is not only about soldiers and cannons but also about ideas, about forms, about images and imaginings”. Let us pay tribute to the idea of a free, secular, democratic Palestine that has featured in the "imaginings” of so many for the last six decades.

Thank you!

New Delhi
December 2, 2009

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