RIYADH: Ghazanfar Ali Khan | Arab News Staff
Published — Thursday 16 May 2013
Last update 16 May 2013 4:38 am
Key bilateral and regional issues including the welfare of Indian workers, within the framework of the new Saudi labor policy, will top the agenda of talks later this month between Salman Khurshid, the Indian external affairs minister, and high-ranking Saudi officials.
Khurshid will begin a three-day official visit to Saudi Arabia on May 24 in response to an invitation extended by Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal. “Khurshid’s visit to the Kingdom is the first visit of its kind by an Indian foreign minister for the last five years,” said Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, in a telephone interview with Arab News.
Regarding the issues to be discussed during his talks, Akbaruddin said: “There will be a range of issues that will be brought to the forefront of the discussions. The regional situation is bound to be discussed, which entails issues related to the Middle East, including the Syrian crisis.”
When asked about cooperation in the fields of energy, commerce and manpower, the spokesman said: “Energy in a generic sense will also be discussed, as we import 17 percent of our oil from Saudi Arabia,” adding, “the condition of our workers will also be on the agenda.”
In addition, Khurshid will interact with the Indian expatriates during his stay in the Kingdom.
Akbaruddin praised the Saudi government for offering concessions including the three-month grace period for foreign workers to legalize their status.
Meanwhile, the Indian government has announced that workers seeking emergency travel certificates to leave during the grace period don’t need to pay a fee to the Indian Embassy. During a meeting with Indian volunteers on Tuesday, Ambassador Hamid Ali Rao, who was accompanied by deputy chief of mission Sibi George, said: “The Indian government has announced fee exemption for emergency certificate for Indians in Saudi Arabia.”
More than 1,000 Indian workers assembled outside the embassy on Tuesday evening either to collect their passports or to seek travel documents. At the volunteers meeting, George presented details of the information provided to ambassadors by the Saudi Ministry of Labor on May 11.
Addressing the registered volunteers who came forward to help Indians, he highlighted the issues that many Indians face today. He explained to volunteers the procedures to be followed depending on whether the workers want to correct their legal status, seek new jobs or return to India. He added the embassy will issue emergency certificates on May 18 and 19. The embassy has released a list of 2,528 applicants for ECs, whose passports are available with the embassy.
The list is available on the embassy’s website. Applicants whose passport number is included in the list should visit the embassy from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. starting on May 18. Indians in Jeddah and neighboring areas, who lost their passports, may check their passport numbers from the list of passports released by the embassy.