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HindustanTimes Wed,24 Sep 2014

Energy, Nitaqat law, counter-terror on Khurshid's agenda in Saudi Arabia

PTI  New Delhi, May 14, 2013
First Published: 19:50 IST(14/5/2013) | Last Updated: 19:57 IST(14/5/2013)

The controversial 'Nitaqat' law relating to employment, energy security, counter-terrorism cooperation and a host of bilateral and regional issues would be discussed during external affairs minister Salman Khurshid's visit to Saudi Arabia later this month.

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Khurshid's visit, from May 24-27, would be the first by an external affairs minister in the last five years. In 2008, then foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee had visited Saudi Arabia.

"There would be an entire range of issues that would be discussed," official spokesperson in the ministry of external affairs Syed Akbaruddin said in New Delhi.

Speaking about the issues that are likely to come up, Akbaruddin said that as per the latest estimates provided by Saudi Arabia, there are about 2.8 million Indian national residents there. "Their welfare, as you are aware has been a matter on which some concerns have been expressed," he said.

He recalled the recent visit of an Indian delegation led by overseas Indian affairs minister Vayalar Ravi who had held a meeting with Saudi Arabian labour minister Adel Fakieh.

Minister of state for external affairs E Ahamed and advisor to Prime Minister TKA Nair were also part of the delegation.

"The goal at that stage was to try and ensure that Saudi policies, which are largely domestic in nature, are implemented in a manner that takes into account the humanitarian needs of Indian nationals who are residents there," the spokesperson said.

He said since then Saudi government has provided "some sort of" options for various expatriates including Indians.

The 'Nitaqat' law makes it mandatory for local companies to hire one Saudi national for every 10 migrant workers. There has been widespread perception that the new policy will lead to denial of job opportunities for a large number of Indians working there.

 All cases against expats related violation of immigration laws are expected to be dropped once the Nitaqat law comes into effect.

Saudi Arabia has handed over about 15,000 passports of stranded Indian workers, surrendered by Saudi sponsors, to the Indian Embassy in Riyadh, in a bid to resolve cases of immigration law violations.

The Saudi government is implementing the Nitaqat law to cut unemployment in the country.

Asked if talks would also be held on energy cooperation, Akbaruddin said "yes, because we import 17 per cent of our oil from Saudi Arabia".

The Arab country sells to India good worth about $33 billion while India exports about $9 billion to Saudi Arabia.

Counter-terrorism is also likely to be discussed during Khurshid's visit.

Last year, the Saudi government had helped India apprehend two key terror suspects, including Zabiuddin Ansari, alias Abu Jundal, who was wanted in the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack.

Saudi authorities had also detained and deported a suspected founding member of the Indian Mujahideen terrorist group, Fasih Mehmood, for the 2010 bomb blast in Bangalore.

Akbaruddin said regional issues, including the Syrian situation, as well as matters of common interests will be discussed during the visit.


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