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MEA secy reviews preparations for this year's Haj during official visit to Saudi Arabia

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New Delhi, May 8 (PTI) Muktesh K Pardeshi, a secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs, reviewed the preparations for this year's Haj during his just-concluded official visit to Saudi Arabia besides holding meetings with a number of its ministers to strengthen cooperation between both sides.

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The visit of Secretary (Consular, Passport, Visa & Overseas Indian Affairs) underscored the "depth and breadth" of the relationship between India and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), reaffirming commitment to mutual prosperity and collaboration across diverse fields, the MEA said in a statement on Wednesday.

Secretary (CPV & OIA) "concluded an official visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from 4th to 7th May, 2024 aimed at strengthening the strategic partnership between India and Saudi Arabia," the ministry said.

During his visit, he conducted a review of preparations for Haj 2024 in Jeddah and Madinah.

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He met with Vice Haj Minister Abdul Fattah Mashat and discussed logistical arrangements and infrastructure developments aimed at the welfare and comfort for pilgrims.

"This year, a total of 175,025 Indian pilgrims will visit Saudi Arabia under the 2024 Hajj quota," the statement said.

Engagement with the GCC was an important focus of the visit. The secretary visited the GCC Secretariat in Riyadh and held a meeting with GCC Assistant Secretary General Abdulaziz Aluwaisheg, it added.

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"The two sides discussed strengthening the institutional framework of ties, and enhancing relations across various sectors, including in trade, security, energy, and cultural exchange. Both sides exchanged views on the regional and international situation," the MEA said.

Pardeshi held substantive discussions in Riyadh with Saud bin Mohammed Al Sati, Deputy Minister for Political Affairs at the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and reviewed the progress under the Strategic Partnership Council (SPC) in addition to a number of topics of bilateral and mutual interest.

The secretary reaffirmed India's commitment to "strengthening cooperation with KSA across various sectors".

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"On the economic side, Secretary met with Assistant Ministers of Electricity Affairs, Nasser Al Qahtani and Assistant Minister for and Petroleum and Gas Eng. Mohammed AIbrahim in the Ministry of Energy to discuss deepening energy cooperation, including in the field of renewables and on grid connectivity. They also discussed facilitating investments between the two countries," the MEA added.

In a separate meeting with Raad Al Barakati, President and CEO of the Saudi Centre for International Strategic Partnerships (SCISP), "the two sides reviewed the work under the Economy pillar of the SPC".

During his visit, Pardeshi also reviewed the well-being of the 2.4 million-strong Indian community in Saudi Arabia, the statement said.

Pardeshi appreciated the leadership of the Kingdom for their efforts in ensuring the welfare of the Indian community. He interacted with the vibrant community in both Jeddah and Riyadh, it said.

The secretary expressed his appreciation for the contributions of the Indian community to the socio-economic fabric of Saudi Arabia and assured them of the Indian government's "continued support and assistance". PTI KND AS AS

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