JEDDAH, 28 June 2007 — A week after its launch, the Saudi-Indian Friendship Society (SIFS) is being swamped with membership requests.
“A lot of Saudis have come forward to become its members,” said Dr. Asma Siddiki of the society’s six-member steering committee. “If you noticed, the number of Saudis, both men and women, at the launch in Jeddah far exceeded the number of Indians. That was very encouraging and a sure sign that we are on the right track,” said Siddiki who is the vice dean for student affairs at Effat College.
She said the response was more than had been expected by the people who founded the group. The steering committee met on Monday to finalize details of programs that the society plans to undertake in the months ahead.
A.G. Danish, the society’s secretary and one who played an instrumental role from the Indian side in organizing the friendship group, said the response had indeed been beyond expectations.
“We have had a huge request for membership and we are delighted,” he said, adding that it is open to people of both nations without any preconditions. “The more, the merrier,” was Danish’s response. He requested those who are interested to get in touch with him at [email protected].
The formation of the group has been widely reported in India in both English and other languages. “Everybody is delighted at the coming together of the people of the two great nations. Through cultural interaction, we will raise the people-to-people relationship to a new level,” added Danish.
What has lent weight to the society is that it functions directly under the patronage of the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information and with active help from the Consulate General of India in Jeddah.
A short film on the burgeoning Saudi-Indian relationship produced by Danish and which was screened at the launch is also receiving rave reviews. A Saudi Television official who was present at the launch said the film would be aired in order to underline the message of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah during his visit to India last year.
“Pictures speak louder than words,” he said and called for the making of more such films to promote understanding between the peoples of the two countries.
Hassan Al-Harithy, a prominent Saudi journalist who is among the many willing to become a member of the new forum, felt the group should organize trips to India for Saudis. “What I have noticed is that Indians are not very comfortable in taking us there. They think that we will not be impressed,” said Al-Harithy, and added: “But every Saudi who has gone there has come back impressed. Let Saudis go there and form their own opinions. Indians are proud people, but they are very humble. Something we could learn a lot from.”