Describing India's democracy as a 'role model' for Palestinian people, President of Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas has said the country can play an important role in the Middle East peace process.
"India, the second largest populated nation in the world and the biggest democracy with a booming economy, including hi-tech, could play an important role in the Middle East peace process," Abbas told PTI in an interview a day before leaving for New Delhi.
"It maintains special relations with all the countries in our region, including the state of Israel, and can do a lot to push forward the peace process," the Palestinian leader said.
Urging India to actively engage in the process, he said the 'security and stability of our region directly affects the stability of their region'.
India has appointed a special envoy for the region in view of this understanding.
Acknowledging the 'unique, historic and strong' ties with India, the Palestinian leader said that people in Palestine see India as a 'role model' and the bilateral relations are independent from political party in power in New Delhi.
"All Indian political parties support the Palestinian cause and we salute the Indian people and all the parties. India continues to be one of the pioneering countries in support of the Palestinian rights in international circles," Abbas emphasised.
"India is one of the first countries with which we exchanged diplomatic representation on the eve of the establishment of the Palestinian National Authority. It is also worth mentioning that India was one of the first states to recognise the PLO through opening a representation office on its soil and among the first to recognise the declaration of the State of Palestine in 1988," he pointed out.
"Our people value the strong support from India to their liberty and independence. Given India's richness in humanity and liberty our people look at it as a role model. It is not a coincidence that thousands of our people study in India," the Palestinian leader added.
Appreciating India's aid of $15 million to the PA, the President said that active efforts should be made between the two sides to start contacts at the ministerial level and India's expertise in industry, technology and hi-tech should be utilised to revive the Palestinian economy.
Abbas will meet his Indian counterpart, Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Vice President Hamid Ansari, United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Leader of the Opposition L K Advani and Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed during his four day trip, briefing them on the developments in the Middle East peace talks and to discuss how to further strengthen contacts between India and the Palestinians.
The PA President will also lay the foundation stone of the Palestinian embassy in New Delhi, which is being funded by the Indian government.
On the domestic front, Abbas seems to have softened up his approach against Islamic faction Hamas, which vanquished PA forces in pitched fighting in Gaza last June taking complete control of the coastal Strip, favouring reconciliatory moves brokered by Arab nations 'in the interest of unity of Palestinians and their land'.
"In a few days the Egyptians will be meeting with Hamas' leadership and they will present to all the Palestinian factions their vision to come out of the current crisis in favour of re-uniting the Palestinian arena," he said.
"Such a vision and recommendations will be presented to the Arab League as an Arab initiative. From our side, we will commit ourselves to whatever the Arabs decide. Those who reject the proposal will bear the consequences of their rejections," the President said.
He also outlined the preparation for Presidential and parliamentary elections and reform of the security apparatus under Arab supervision as the main tasks ahead of his government.
Patting the back of his administration, the President emphasised that it has been able to bring about several key internal reforms despite the coup d'etat of Hamas and Israeli violations which have seen expansion of colonies in the heart of Palestinian land and the erection of more than 600 blockades and checkpoints.
"The government succeeded to rationalise the expenses and ensure the stabilisation of the budget as it succeeded to re-establish law and order in some Palestinian cities despite Israeli violations," Abbas said.
Describing the ouster of Israeli premier Ehud Olmert as an 'internal matter of Israelis', the Palestinian President vowed to continue negotiations with any prime minister the Jewish state chooses.
However, he said that the domestic political developments in Israel have had an adverse impact on ongoing peace talks between the two sides.
"Reaching to this point we still should not underestimate such developments on the whole peace process to the point that not reaching a peace deal has become a possibility," Abbas said.
"More important now is to safeguard the continuation of the negotiations with the upcoming new American and Israeli administration," he added.