Khurshid to visit Saudi Arabia this week

Riyadh: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will be visiting Saudi Arabia this week for talks with the Saudi leadership on a range of issues, including the controversial 'Nitaqat' law relating to employment, energy security and counter-terrorism cooperation.

Khurshid's visit, from May 24-27, would be the first by an Indian External Affairs Minister in the last five years. In 2008, then Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee had visited the Gulf Kingdom.

Khurshid will hold discussions with his Saudi counterpart Prince Saud Al-Faisal on bilateral, regional and international issues and is also expected to call on the leadership of Saudi Arabia, Indian embassy here said.

The visit comes at a time when a large number of Indians leaving Saudi Arabia as a result of the country's Nitaqat programme, which is meant to regularise foreign workers.

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

Over two million Indians are currently working in Saudi Arabia.

Last month, an Indian delegation led by Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi had held a meeting with Saudi Arabian Labour Minister Adel Fakieh.

Ahead of Khurshid's visit, Indian Ambassador Hamid Ali Rao yesterday met Saudi Arabia's Deputy Minister for Interior Dr Ahmed Al Salem at the Ministry of Interior.

They discussed all issues pertaining to the welfare of the Indian community in Saudi Arabia, which includes facilities for immigration and 'exit' for Indian nationals approaching the Saudi authorities.