Minority Affairs Minister Smriti Irani accompanied by Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan signed the Bilateral Haj Agreement 2024 with Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Tawfiq bin Fawzan in Jeddah.
According to an official statement, a total quota of 1,75,025 pilgrims from India has been finalised for Haj 2024 with 1,40,020 seats being reserved for pilgrims to proceed through Haj Committee whereas 35,005 pilgrims would be permitted to proceed through private operators.
“Pleased to announce the formalisation of the Bilateral Haj Agreement 2024 between India and Saudi Arabia. I, along with Hon’ble MoS for External Affairs, Shri @MOS_MEA, presided over the signing. Also engaged in productive discussions on matters of mutual interest with @tfrabiah, Saudi Minister of Haj and Umrah Affairs,” Irani said in a post on X.
She said the Saudi delegation expressed sincere appreciation for India’s exceptional digital initiatives, particularly in providing essential last-mile information to pilgrims. “Our proposal to encourage the participation of women without Mehram in the Haj pilgrimage further underscores our commitment to inclusivity,” she added.
Discussions also encompassed plans for the enhancement of medical facilities, ensuring the comprehensive well-being of all pilgrims, she said. “I deeply value the collaborative spirit exhibited during these deliberations and eagerly anticipate the continued fortification of our bilateral relations.” During the meeting, India’s digital initiatives in facilitating and promoting ease and convenience for the Haj pilgrims were greatly appreciated by the Saudi side and the Gulf Kingdom offered to extend all possible help, the statement said.
“The initiative of the Government of India towards encouraging participation under the Ladies without Mehram (LWM) category was discussed, deeply appreciated and lauded,” it added.
Irani and Muraleedharan later visited the Haj Terminal of King Abdulaziz International Airport, Jeddah, to oversee the arrangements for pilgrims and explore ways to facilitate better logistics and monitoring mechanisms for their convenience.
They also met with Prof. Dr. Ali Erbaş, President of the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) in Türkiye and Dr. Hj. Na’im bin Hj. Mokhtar, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Islamic Affairs) separately on the sidelines of the signing of the bilateral.
“Productive discussions today with Prof. @DIBAliErbas, President of the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), Türkiye. Explored avenues for shared growth and stronger India-Türkiye bilateral ties, while exchanging insights on Haj management and adoption of best practices for enhanced pilgrimage experience,” Irani said in another post.
During the meetings, experiences on Haj management and administration were shared and there was an exchange of ideas on best practices with the respective counterparts.
The scope for digital initiatives for seamless delivery of services, setting up and enhancement of robust and reliable medical facilities for the pilgrims, and measures taken especially for the care and facilitation of the women pilgrims were particularly discussed.
“It was further resolved that avenues and scope for further exchange of ideas and collaboration would be explored so as to ensure that maximum benefits from the adoption of best practices accrue to the Haj pilgrims,” another statement said.
Irani earlier on Sunday arrived here on a two-day visit. She was received at the Jeddah Airport by Ambassador Dr Suhel Khan, Consul General Mohd Shahid and officials of the Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah.
Irani, also serving as the Union Minister for Women & Child Development, will also meet the Indian business community and Indian diaspora in Saudi Arabia.
On Monday, Irani will attend the opening ceremony of the 3rd Edition of ‘Haj and Umrah Conference’ in Jeddah being organised by the Saudi Ministry of Haj and Umrah Affairs.
The Indo-Saudi partnership has deepened in recent years, marked by sustained engagement across various sectors. The visit will further strengthen the strategic partnership placing Haj as a vital dimension in this relationship, the statement said.