UNITED NATIONS: India Thursday expressed hope that other member states, including the traditional donors, will step in to support the UN agency for Palestinian refugees which is facing serious resource crunch after the US decided not to provide further funding to it.
The Trump administration had last month announced that after carefully reviewing the issue it has decided not to make additional contributions to the United Nation Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
"India has supported UNRWA's work since its establishment. UNRWA has been carrying out commendable work for Palestine refugees," External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said at the Ministerial Committee of the NAM on Palestine held Wednesday on the sidelines of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly.
She said from this year, India has increased its contribution to UNRWA from USD 1.25 million to USD 5 million annually, the country's highest annual voluntary contribution to any of the UN's funds and programmes.
"We hope other member states, including the traditional donors will also step in to support UNRWA at a time when it is faced with a serious resource crunch," Swaraj said.
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert had announced that the US was no longer willing to shoulder the very disproportionate share of the burden of UNRWA's costs.
"When we made a US contribution of USD 60 million in January, we made it clear that the US was no longer willing to shoulder the very disproportionate share of the burden of UNRWA's costs that we had assumed for many years," Nauert had said in a statement on August 31.
Swaraj also voiced concern over the deterioration in the security situation in the region, reiterating that a negotiated two-State solution remains the only viable solution to the issue to bring sustainable peace and lasting security.
"Restraint and moderation are required on all sides. The stagnation since the collapse of talks four years ago and the deterioration in the security situation continues to cause serious concern. We hope for an early resumption of talks between Israel and Palestine that can move towards finding out a comprehensive resolution of the issue," she said.
She said India's continued commitment to the Palestinian cause and earnestness to develop stronger bilateral relations is demonstrated in the successive high level visit in the recent past.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Palestine in a "historic" trip.
Swaraj told the meeting that India is investing in projects of healthcare, educational infrastructure, women empowerment and a printing press, in addition to other capacity building programmes.
India has also set up various bilateral institutional consultation mechanisms including Foreign Office consultations and a Joint Commission, which pursues these partnership projects.
Development partnership projects worth around USD 70 million are under implementation during the last five years, including flagship projects like the super-specialty hospital in Beit Sahour and the India-Palestine Technology Park, which was inaugurated last year in Ramallah, she added.
Skills and capacity development for the youth and their enhanced engagement, as an investment in a better future, is also one of the focus of India-Palestine partnership, she said.
While the number of youth delegates to participate in the youth exchange programme has been doubled this year, India has also substantially enhanced the scholarships made available for Palestinian professionals and students for technical training and higher education from this year, Swaraj said.