The government has allayed apprehensions of Saudi Arabia sending back Indians on a large scale because of its Nitaqat law, providing for mandatory recruitment of locals in private establishments.

There is no urgency for Indian Ministers to dash off to Riyadh for, the Saudi Labour Minister is out of the country and is expected to return only mid-April, said senior officials of the Ministry of External Affairs.

Minister away

India would officially engage with him only later this month. Minister for Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi had announced his intention to go to Saudi Arabia to hold discussions on the issue.

The government had dismissed the talk that the bulk of the 24.5-lakh Indians would have to return because the Saudi law provided for increased reservation from five to 30 per cent.

“They are not asking for the moon. They are looking after their own citizens,” said senior MEA official A.R. Ghanshyam. He pointed out that a small percentage of Pakistanis, Yemenis, Nigerians too would experience uncertainty while the Saudis put their law into effect. As the Indians were most preferred, the impact would be minimal, he suggested.

The government was in discussion with the Saudis to ensure minimum impact of the law. But officials admitted that they could do little beyond cajoling them because this was part of the Saudi “internal policy machine.”

Arab Spring effect

The idea of reservation came after the Arab Spring and Riyadh wanted to take measures to ensure employment for its youth. There was also little New Delhi could do about Riyadh’s drive to check identity documents and work visas of all foreigners.

Indians who changed jobs without getting an endorsement on their visas could be in trouble. As for illegal Indians, officials did not expect deportation of Saudi rule violators to be anywhere on the scale of 50,000 Indians sent back in 2007.

Taking their lessons from that wholesale deportation, Indian missions tightened monitoring procedures and in the 2013 amnesty only 3,500 Indians had been sent back, said MEA spokesman Syed Akbaruddin.