PM Modi is also expected to visit Saudi Arabia later this year for an international conference to be organised there.
New Delhi: As many as two lakh Indian Muslim pilgrims will be able to go for the Haj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia from this year, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale announced at Osaka, Japan, on Friday after a bilateral meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman there ahead of the G-20 Summit. This figure of two lakh represents an increase from the earlier 1.7 lakh Indian pilgrims. Mr Gokhale said Saudi Arabia had implemented its earlier assurance to India on this score. PM Modi is also expected to visit Saudi Arabia later this year for an international conference to be organised there.
Both the leaders also discussed the situation in the Gulf obviously in the context of reduced import by countries of Iranian oil, with PM Modi telling saying “this could affect oil supplies and pricing”, both of which are important for India. It may be noted that New Delhi is heavily relying on Saudi Arabia to make up the shortfall since Iran used to earlier supply about 11 percent of India’s energy supplies. PM Modi also “appreciated Saudi efforts at ensuring that oil supplies have remained stable and that oil prices have remained predictable in the last few months”.
Briefing reporters, Mr. Gokhale said, “Crown Prince had (earlier) promised PM that Haj quota (for Indians) would be raised from 1.7 lakh to two lakh annually, this is important. This has been done. In the Haj that will begin very shortly, two lakh Indians will have the opportunity to go for Haj. Crown Prince invited PM to be one of the main guests at an international conference later this year and PM has accepted the invitation with pleasure.”
Mr. Gokhale added, “Both leaders discussed the situation in the Gulf. PM (Modi) said this could affect oil supplies and pricing, both of these are important for India. PM (Modi) appreciated Saudi efforts at ensuring that oil supplies have remained stable and that oil prices have remained predictable in the last few months. He said the Saudi leadership role in this area ... (is) keeping a balance in the global oil market (which) is important for the rest of the world and the region. The Crown Prince characterised the relationship as strong. He (Crown Prince) said these are relationships between peoples of the two countries and leader to leader. He felt it was the duty of both sides to work together. (The Crown Prince) said he had worked to keep oil process sustainable and supply regular. He said Saudi Arabia will continue to play this role in the future.”
The Foreign Secretary further said, “The PM welcomed Saudi initiative in February to get US$ 100 billion as investment. ... Both PM and crown prince were happy at the growth of trade last year.”