A quarter of 28 lakh Indians working in the Gulf kingdom will be benefited

India will sign on Thursday a labour cooperation agreement with Saudi Arabia, which will benefit a quarter of the 28 lakh Indians working in the Gulf kingdom.

Labour Minister Abdul Fakieh, an important figure in the Saudi Cabinet for India which has the largest number of expatriates in the Kingdom, will sign the agreement with Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vyalar Ravi, Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs, said here on Tuesday.

Mr. Fakieh will meet External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Friday. The meeting comes at a time when India has been invited for an international conference to discuss the Syrian situation, in which Saudi Arabia has huge stakes.

“This is the first time we are entering into an agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on labour-related matters, and it stems from a Saudi law [Nitaqat] brought in for domestic workers,” Mr. Akbaruddin said.

The Ministry of External Affairs expects this agreement to be a stepping stone for a comprehensive pact for the entire Indian labour force in the Gulf nation.

New Delhi is laying emphasis on the agreement for domestic workers because it will ensure a standard work contract, with requirements to be followed at the time of selection and immigration. India is looking for minimum labour standards from Saudi Arabia after the application of the Nitaqat, which cleaned up infirmities in the documentation of all expatriates. Over 14 lakh Indians availed themselves of the grace period by putting their papers in order, while 1.41 lakh returned to India. But during the same time, the number of Indians who went to Saudi Arabia was larger than those who returned, said Mr. Akbaruddin.

Mr. Akbaruddin expects the number of Indians in Saudi Arabia to grow despite Nitaqat which reserves a percentage of jobs in each establishment for Saudi citizens and cracks down on undocumented workers.

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