Saudi Arabia and India have agreed to set up a joint panel “to evolve mechanism” for addressing problems faced by Indian workers hit by the Nitaqat scheme in Saudi Arabia.

The first meeting of the joint panel, which will also discuss ways and means to maximize the availability of alternative jobs for affected workers, will be held in Riyadh on Wednesday.

Addressing a press conference after holding talks with Minister of Labor Adel Fakeih in Jeddah yesterday, Indian Minister of Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi, said: “The Indian side has conveyed its concerns to the Saudi officials, who have assured all possible support.”

He said Saudi Deputy Minister for Labor Affairs Ahamed Al-Humaidan and Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy of India Sibi George would cochair the panel. He said the two sides have also agreed to expedite the long-awaited MoU for labor cooperation between the two countries.

The delegation also met Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal.

Ravi, who is accompanied by E. Ahamed, India’s minister of state for external affairs and T.K.A. Nair, adviser to the Indian prime minister, said: “A joint working group, set up for expediting the labor agreement, will meet next month in New Delhi.” He said the Kingdom and India would also work closely to make the process of recruitment of workers more transparent, which is in the interest of both the workers and the employers.

Ravi, who is leading a “goodwill delegation,” said the visit was also aimed at briefing the Indian community on the steps taken by India for the rehabilitation of the returning Indians.

He said the Indian delegation did not discuss amnesty for illegal Indians. He reminded the Indian community that they are living in a foreign land where one must respect and obey law of the land. He urged Indian workers to regularize their living and working status within the three-month grace period.

He said that Huroob is a complex and sensitive issue that involves several aspects from the Saudi side.

Nair said Saudi Arabia is India’s strategic partner and both countries share broader range of interest than manpower. He praised Indian diplomatic missions in Jeddah and Riyadh for their efforts to serve the community with limited resources.

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