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May 14, 2013 at 11:40pm IST

Salman Khurshid to visit Saudi Arabia, Nitaqat law to be discussed

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will visit Saudi Arabia on May 24-27, the first visit by an Indian foreign minister in the last five years, during which the kingdom's Nitaqat work policy, regional and international issues would be discussed.

Then external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee had visited Saudi Arabia in 2008. Khurshid's visit comes days after the trip of a high level Indian delegation, led by Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, to the kingdom to discuss the Nitaqat law, under which is it mandatory for local companies to hire one Saudi national for every 10 migrant workers.

ALSO SEE India conveys concern to Saudi Arabia over Nitaqat law

Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed and Advisor to Prime Minister TKA Nair were also part of the delegation that met Saudi Arabian Labour Minister Adel Fakieh last month to convey India's concern over the Nitaqat programme introduced eariler this year.

Khurshid to visit Saudi Arabia, Nitaqat to be discussed

Under the Nitaqat law, it is mandatory for local companies to hire one Saudi national for every 10 migrant workers.

The naturalization law has led to concerns among Indian workers that it will lead to denial of job opportunities for them. Over 300,000 firms in Saudi Arabia reportedly do not employ any locals and the Nitaqat policy seeks to deal firmly with this.

Under the new law, foreigners are allowed to only work for their legal sponsors and their spouses won't be allowed to take up jobs. Also, the expatriates cannot perform any job other than the one mentioned in their job cards.

Saudi Arabia had last month given a three-month grace period to foreigner workers to regularise their status. Saudi Arabia on May 10 offered "some options for expatriate workers", said the external affairs ministry spokesperson.

He said the number of Indian workers in Saudi Arabia are 2.8 million. He said both sides would try and ensure that Saudi policies "which are largely domestic in nature are implemented in a manner that takes into account the humanitarian needs of Indian nationals who are residents there".

Energy cooperation would also be discussed. India imports 17 per cent of its oil from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia exports to India is worth $33 billion, while Indian exports to the kingdom are worth $9 billion. Both sides would discuss regional and international issues, including Syria.