Jeddah: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Friday arrived Saudi Arabia on an official visit during which he will hold talks with Saudi Arabia's leadership on a range of issues, including the controversial 'Nitaqat' law, energy security and counter-terrorism cooperation.

Khurshid's visit is 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.

The Minister was received at the airport by Deputy Foreign Minister Abdul Aziz Bin Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz. Earlier, Khurshid's flight made a small stopover in Abu Dhabi as scheduled for refueling.

Khurshid will hold discussions with his Saudi counterpart Prince Saud Al-Faisal on bilateral, regional and international issues and will also call on the leadership of Saudi Arabia.

Nitaqat law

The visit comes at a time when a number of Indians are 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. Nearly three million Indians are currently working in Saudi Arabia. Besides, focusing on the fall out of the 'Nitaqat' law, Khurshid will also hold talks on other bilateral issues including energy security.

Saudi Arabia is also India's biggest supplier of oil. According to official figures, India imports nearly 17 percent of its oil demand from Saudi Arabia. Counter-terrorism cooperation will be yet another topic that the two sides will focus on.

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.

Khurshid is also carrying a personal letter from the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.


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