In what comes as a further boost to the deepening bilateral ties between India and Saudi Arabia, PM Modi is going to visit Saudi Arabia on October 29. During his visit, Prime Minister Modi will hold discussions with the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. The visit is expected to come as a matter of huge relief for around three million Indian workers in Saudi Arabia who work in a variety of Saudi firms.
While the Government of India does have records of its citizens working in the Gulf country, there are no records of where the workers are employed and how the employers are.
Moreover, many of these workers have their passports taken away at the time of appointment, which is why they can’t do much about the prevalent cases of discrimination and exploitation.
Now, in what could bring a huge change in the lives of Indian workers, most of whom are unskilled or semi-skilled workers and thus prone to exploitation and abuse, the Indian government is in discussion with the Saudi authorities to work on plans for integrating the employment process. This means that the government will have access to the information about where the Indian workers are working in the Gulf country.
In case of exploitation or abuse, the India authorities will be able to promptly intervene and bring relief for the aggrieved Indian workers. Attempts are also underway to ensure ‘benefits’ for semi-skilled Indian workers in the country. This will ensure better working conditions for those working as cooks, caregivers, etc.
The exploitation of workers in the Gulf countries and denial of labour rights has always been an issue. However, the past governments did not take any big initiative to safeguard the interests of Indian workers in the Gulf countries. Now, PM Modi has taken what can easily be described as the single biggest move by the Indian government to interact with Saudi Arabia, the country which consists of a major proportion of the Indian workers employed in the Gulf countries. Saudi Arabia is the top destination for Muslim migrants, a sizeable proportion of whom comes from India.
The Modi dispensation is pushing for the formalisation of Indian workers in the biggest oil exporter of the world amid its deepening ties with India.
PM Modi has been able to forge really strong ties with Saudi Arabia in a major diplomatic achievement. Only last month, India’s FDI inflows received a major shot in the arm after it came to light that Saudi Arabia is looking to invest $100 billion across several sectors such as petrochemicals, infrastructure and mining. Saudi Arabia Ambassador Dr Saud Bin Mohammed Al Sati also stressed upon his country’s vision for a long-term partnership with India in key sectors such as oil, gas and mining.
PM Modi has also made sure that the deepening of bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia is not limited to investments and partnership in economic sectors. The two countries are taking it beyond just economic co-operation and the cultural aspect figures in a big way. Earlier this year PM Modi’s discussions with the Saudi Crown Prince led to an increase in India’s Hajj quota by 25,000 taking it to 2,00,000. And this was the third hike in consecutive years which shows that PM Modi has been able to continuously push for an increase in India’s Hajj quota. When the Modi government came to power, India’s quota stood at 1,36,000 and now it has reached 2,00,000.
With deepening of India’s relations with Saudi Arabia, PM Modi has been able to push for greater co-operation between the two countries by keeping interests of the Indian diaspora at the centre of attention. Such unprecedented success in forging closer bilateral ties with Saudi Arabia and is going to come as one of PM Modi’s major diplomatic exploits.