India has raised its contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees by four times, even as President Donald Trump’s administration suspended American Government’s support to the organization. New Delhi has increased its contribution to the UNRWA from $ 1.25 million to $ 5 million (Rs 8.15 crore to Rs 32.61 crore) for three years, beginning from 2018-19, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Wednesday.
India committed to quadruple its contributions to the UNRWA in order to help the agency cope with a $ 446 million budget shortfall, which was caused by Trump Administration’s move to suspend United States’ aid for Palestinians. Trump in January this year said that the US would not provide aid to the UNRWA unless Palestinians agreed to renew talks with Israel to carry forward the peace process.
“This enhancement (contribution by New Delhi) was made in the backdrop of the unprecedented financial crisis being faced by (the) UNRWA, which has been delivering valuable public services to Palestinian refugees around the world,” Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said. New Delhi pledged to raise its contributions to the UNRWA during a conference in Rome on March 15. India’s move to help out the UNRWA came just a few weeks after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Palestine on February 10.
Modi’s visit to Ramallah was aimed at sending out a message that India did not budge from its traditional support to the cause of Palestine even as it stepped up its engagement with Israel after the BJP’s ascent to power in New Delhi in May 2014. Prime Minister’s earlier visit to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in July 2017 had de-linked India’s relations with Israel and Palestine.
The UNRWA, which was set up by UN General Assembly resolution on December 8, 1949, provides assistance and protection to Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It now helps 5266603 Palestinians, runs 692 schools with 500698 refugee students, and provide healthcare to 9000000 refugees in a year. It also helps refugees to develop and maintain camp infrastructure and provides them micro-finance and emergency assistance.
The US has been the largest donor to the UNRWA with its annual voluntary contributions to the agency crossing the $ 350 million mark in the past two years. Washington, however, provided only $ 60 million to the UNRWA this year, thus putting the agency in severe financial crisis.
Trump irked Palestinians by formally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017. India declined to toe the US line on recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel but refrained from reiterating its long-held view that eastern part of the holy city should be the capital of the future state of Palestine.