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India to back Palestine's UN bid, reassures PM

September 22, 2011 08:12 IST

The United States and Israel may well oppose the Palestinians' bid to seek a full membership of the United Nations, but India will fully back its claim at the world body despite its 'excellent relations' with both the countries.

Before his departure for the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sent a letter this week to Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, assuring him of India's full support at the UN.

"India's relations with the Palestinian people are firmly rooted in history and our ethos. India has been unwavering in its support of the cause of Palestinian peoples' struggle for sovereign, independent, viable and a United State of Palestine with east Jerusalem as its capital, living within secure and recognisable borders, side by side and at peace with Israel as endorsed in the Arab Peace Initiative,' Dr Singh said in his letter in response to the August 22 letter of Abbas.

While the US, as a permanent member of the council might veto its application for full membership, which has to be submitted through Security Council, sources said that Palestine, which has already declared statehood for itself, is eligible to put a draft resolution before the General Assembly for elevating its status to that of a non-member state.

Will it work?

That remains a big question even as the Palestine Liberation Organisation chief addresses the UNGA this week in its current status and prepares itself for an intensive diplomacy before a voting on its full-membership application possibly next week.

"Let's wait and see, although there are many who support the establishment of a Palestinian state," one source said.

According to the Center for American Progress, the current Palestinian effort is not a "declaration of statehood" but a bid for UN membership. The Palestinians already declared statehood in November 1988, issuing a declaration of independence.

As a result of the declaration, a General Assembly resolution was adopted "acknowledging the proclamation of the State of Palestine by the Palestine National Council on 15 November 1988."

One hundred and four states voted for this resolution, 44 abstained, and two, the United States and Israel, voted against.

By February 1989, 89 states had recognised the State of Palestine. As of August 30, 2011, 126 countries recognise the State of Palestine.

In his address to the UN, US President Barack Obama said that his country seeks a future where Palestinians live in a sovereign state of their own, with no limit to what they can achieve.

"There's no question that the Palestinians have seen that vision delayed for too long. It is precisely because we believe so strongly in the aspirations of the Palestinian people that America has invested so much time and so much effort in the building of a Palestinian state, and the negotiations that can deliver a Palestinian state," he said.

"But understand this as well: America's commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable. Our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let us be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbours that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel's citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses," Obama added.

"The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile and persecution, and fresh memories of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are. Those are facts. They cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition," he said.

"It deserves normal relations with its neighbours. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favours by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognise the need to pursue a two-state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine. That is the truth -- each side has legitimate aspirations -- and that's part of what makes peace so hard. And the deadlock will only be broken when each side learns to stand in the other's shoes; each side can see the world through the other's eyes. That's what we should be encouraging. That's what we should be promoting," Obama, whose speech came for a lot of criticism from the PLO, said.

Although India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri made the remarks ahead of the President's speech, he was confident that New Delhi was not going to change its stance regarding Palestine at the UN.

"There is no question of India coming under pressure on the PLO question. We were the first non-Arab nation to recognise the aspiration for Palestinian statehood," Puri said at a press briefing in response to a question.

"You can't be more definitive," he said, alluding to the PM's letter. "I am appalled by the idea that India is going to change its position (because of pressure)."

Noting that India has full diplomatic relations with Israel since 1992 and an 'excellent relations' with he US, Puri said India's foreign policy does not influence each other country.

"The kind of foreign policy we pursue does not influence the other. We believe that if Palestinians come to the UN to pursue its aspirations, then at the same time it will recommit itself to the goal of direct negotiations (with Israel),"
he said.

"Let me be absolutely clear and assure you of India's full support for Palestine at the UN," he added.

Suman Guha Mozumder