Indian PM Narendra Modi meets Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah on Saturday. Image Credit: Twitter

Abu Dhabi:  Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah during his visit on Saturday.

During the visit — hailed as a historic moment and the first by an Indian head of government — the two leaders discussed steps to strengthen their "traditionally close and friendly relations".

Upon his arrival, the Indian leader laid a wreath at the mausoleum of late president Yasser Arafat and also took a tour of the museum.

President Abbas conferred Modi with Grand Collar Honour, Palestine's highest honour, in recognition of the Indian premiers wise leadership. Modi termed the award as an honour for the people of India.

Modi landed in Ramallah on Saturday afternoon to a rousing welcome on the first visit by an Indian prime minister to Palestine.


Modi expected in UAE on Saturday night

Modi is scheduled to arrive in the UAE on Saturday evening to bolster a deepening social and economic friendship between India and the UAE.

In the UAE, Modi’s high-level engagements include bilateral meetings with top UAE leaders and a keynote address at the World Government Summit in Dubai on Sunday, in which India is the guest country.

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Both nations signed several agreements during his swing through the UAE.

Modi’s UAE stopover comes after a historic first visit by an Indian prime minister to Palestine as part of a four-nation tour covering also Jordan and Oman.

The Indian premier was earlier received by Jordan’s Prime Minister Hani Al-Mulki on his arrival in Amman.

This is the Indian leader's first visit to the country and also the first visit by an Indian PM in 30 years.

India and Jordan enjoy friendly ties since diplomatic relations were established in 1950.

The Indian held bilateral talks with His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on Saturday evening, followed by a signing ceremony of agreements and MoUs and a banquet hosted by Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed in honour of Modi.

The prime minister is also expected to meet His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Sunday in Dubai.

“You will see new areas of cooperation and engagements between both nations [during the visit],” Navdeep Singh Suri, Indian Ambassador to the UAE, told Gulf News in an interview.

Modi is expected to visit Wahat Al Karama, the UAE martyrs’ memorial in Abu Dhabi, and pay his respects to the fallen heroes on Sunday morning before leaving for Dubai.

The premier will interact with the Indian community at Dubai Opera on Sunday morning where he is scheduled to participate in a ground-breaking ceremony of the first Hindu temple in Abu Dhabi through livestreaming.

Modi will also meet with Arab CEOs in Dubai before he leaves for Oman from Dubai to conclude the visit to the region.

This is Modi’s second visit to the UAE in more than two years following a maiden visit in August 2015, which was the first official visit of an Indian prime minister to the UAE in 34 years after Indira Gandhi’s visit in 1981.

The premier’s second visit to the UAE speaks volumes about Modi’s personal commitment to the UAE-India relationship, Suri said.

“The UAE will be one of the very few countries the prime minister has visited twice. The fact that Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed also visited India twice [in February 2016 and January 2017] in the same two-and-a-half years reflects his personal commitment also to this relationship,” the envoy said.

Bilateral investment relations have grown rapidly since his first UAE visit with major investments from the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (Adia) and DP World etc to India as part of $75-billion in investments committed by the UAE to Indian infrastructure projects during Modi’s first visit.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, has agreed to set up an India desk and an India office to speed up the pace of investments from the UAE to India, Suresh Prabhu, Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry, said on Thursday.

“This is unprecedented since Adia usually operates in a country-neutral fashion,” Prabhu said in New Delhi.