India aims to build Arab relations

India's junior foreign minister will be holding talks with Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat to strengthen relations.

    Singh wants to find a balance with Middle East relations

    Analysts say the trip aims to address perceptions that New Delhi has been developing close ties with Israel.


    Edappakath Ahamad's three-day visit beginning on Friday is hoped to prove the government's commitment and support to the Palestinian cause, a foreign ministry statement said.


    Ahamad will also meet Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath, the statement added.


    The new Congress-led government which took office in May reiterated in its first policy blueprint India's commitment to the Palestinian people for a homeland of their own.


    In 1992, under a Congress-led government, India resumed diplomatic ties with Israel after treating the country like a pariah state for decades.


    Military links


    Under the Hindu nationalist government which lost power in May, India forged close military links with Israel and acquired military hardware at a cost of a billion dollars.


    But the new government led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has preferred to follow a more nuanced approach, according to analysts.


    "The present government is following a policy of trying to find the right balance," said C Uday Bhaskar of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.


    "It is a prudent gesture ... there was a perception that India was ignoring the interests of the Arab people," he said, adding that high-level contacts would help redress such perceptions.


    "India has an abiding interest in [the Middle East] and the situation there cannot be seen in a black and white manner.


    "Many countries are following a nuanced policy with both these constituencies and India is no exception," he said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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