Excellent relationship with Saudi Arabia augurs well for Hajj, Umrah pilgrims from India

Updated 20 February 2019
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Excellent relationship with Saudi Arabia augurs well for Hajj, Umrah pilgrims from India

  • Last year, a record 175,000 of them traveled to Makkah for Hajj

NEW DELHI: Prominent Muslims in India have told Arab News the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has redefined their relationship with Riyadh.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to use the country’s fast-growing economy to attract more investment from Islamic nations, particularly Saudi Arabia.

Muslims make up 14 percent of India’s population. Last year, a record 175,000 of them traveled to Makkah for Hajj.

Zafarul Islam Khan, the chairman of the Delhi Minority Commission, said he hoped stronger bilateral ties would be an advantage for Muslims.

“Muslims in India go to Saudi for Hajj and Umrah, and a good relationship between New Delhi and Riyadh assures we will be treated well and given respect,” he said. 

He added that the crown prince had sparked a lot of curiosity with his reform measures — aimed at diversifying the economy and opening up the Kingdom culturally — and that people in India, particularly Muslims, were keen to see what deals and agreements would be signed during his visit.

“Muslims in India think very highly of the Saudi-Indian relationship,” said Khan. “The process of redefining the India and Saudi Arabia relationship started long ago. Now what is happening is the consolidation.”

Andalib Akhtar, a New Delhi-based journalist and editor of The Indian Awaz, described the crown prince’s visit as special.

“For any Muslim, it’s a dream to go to Saudi Arabia to perform Hajj or Umrah,” she said. 

“It is also a destination for many Indians who seek employment.”

According to Pew Research Center data, India is the world’s top recipient of migrant remittances. Almost $69 billion was sent back to the country in 2015 and $10.5 billion of this sum was from Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Tasleem Ahmed Rehmani, from the Muslim Political Council of India, said Saudi Arabia’s reputation for promoting a conservative form of Islam had changed in recent years. 

“The crown prince’s reformist measures have been received positively in the country,” he told Arab News, adding that Saudi Arabia had previously been considered close to Pakistan but that it was now regarded as “a great ally and very dependable strategic partner.”

Shaukat Azam, a university student in the eastern Indian city of Patna, said Saudi Arabia should invest in modern schools in India rather than building more seminaries and mosques.

“The Saudis have been building madrasahs (seminaries) and mosques for a long time now. It is time that investment is made in constructing modern schools and colleges,” he told Arab News.

He also said Muslim families depended on earnings from their relatives working in the Kingdom, and that Saudi Arabia was a “savior” for many.

“I have heard a lot about the crown prince and I hope his visit will not only redefine his relations with the country but also with the Muslim population in general.”

Shabuddin Yaqub, a media professional, said Muslims in India owed a lot to Riyadh.

“Almost 200,000 people go for Hajj in Saudi Arabia every year, plus many go for Umrah,” he told Arab News. “Indian Muslims get good respect in Saudi Arabia.”


New technologies help increase number of flights, passengers in Saudi Arabia’s airports — GACA

Updated 24 March 2019
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New technologies help increase number of flights, passengers in Saudi Arabia’s airports — GACA

  • More than 99.86 million passengers departed or arrived through 771,828 flights in the Kingdom's international and domestic airports in 2018
  • GACA is due to host Global Aviation Summit 2019 on April 1 and 2 in Riyadh

JEDDAH: New technologies applied in Saudi Arabia's airports has contributed to aviation growth in the Kingdom and has provided solutions for passenger’s trips, air cargo and investments, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has said.

GACA earlier reported an 8 percent increase in passenger numbers and 4 percent in flight rates in 2018.

It said more than 99.86 million passengers departed or arrived through 771,828 flights in the Kingdom's international and domestic airports in 2018, compared to 92.42 million passengers on board 741,293 flights in 2017.

"The GACA is keen to adopt plans to develop the Kingdom's airports network in order to keep pace with the steady increase in air traffic, increase the reliability of services, maximize geographic coverage and enhance the contribution of the airports to the overall economic growth of the country," it said.

For example, it said, GACA provides information through technology to reduce paperwork, operating costs and streamline business processes while reducing time to address them.

Most prominent among these e-services is the “Self-Services at the Kingdom's airports” that include check-in kiosks that provide boarding passes and luggage identification cards and self-service baggage drops that allows passengers to self-check their luggage.

It also provides self-scanning devices for bags in the arrival halls, ensuring that all baggage and other cargo arrive at the airport through the installation of electronic gates for the passage of freight vehicles before being emptied into the luggage compartment. 

Electronic gates and document scanning machines ensure that a traveler's information is correct and that boarding passes, passports, national identity and residency are valid.

Other services include airport operations systems and flight information display for some domestic airports.

To ensure accuracy in the flight schedules, GACA said it is working on a project to link the Saudi Arabian Airlines traffic management system to the Airport Management System, of which 50 percent has been completed.

GACA is due to host Global Aviation Summit 2019 on April 1 and 2 in Riyadh to review the infrastructure projects for airports and smart airports, the available opportunities to operate the airports and provide advanced services and consultations in civil aviation, among others.