India-Saudi Arabia Current Affairs
King Salman bin Abdulaziz in presence of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj inaugurated 32nd edition of Saudi Arabia’s National Heritage Festival in Janadriyah village, Riyadh. This year India is guest of honor country.
Jenadriyah is cultural and heritage festival of Saudi Arabia. It is held annually at Jenadriyah village near Riyadh. It is organised every year by National Guard. It was held for first time in 1985. It draws more than one million visitors every year.
The festival normally falls during the month of February or March. The activities in festivals include camel race, horse race, sports, dance, arts, history, falconry, and traditional arts and crafts.
The India Pavilion at festival was based on the theme ‘Saudi ka dost Bharat’. It showcased traditional and modern aspects of India and its culture. Previous guests of honor countries were Turkey, Russia, France, Japan, South Korea, China, UAE and Germany.
Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth largest trade partner after China, US and UAE. It is major source of India’s energy security requirement as it accounts for almost one-fifth of India’s crude oil requirement. The volume of bilateral trade between both countries during 2016-17 was recorded at $25.079 billion. Saudi Arabia is home to more than 3 million Indian people.
Saudi Arabia has approved India’s plan to revive the option of ferrying Haj pilgrims via sea route to Jeddah. In this regard, both countries have signed bilateral annual Haj 2018 agreement.
The agreement was signed by Union Minister for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Haj and Umrah Minister of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Mohammad Saleh bin TaherBenten at Makkah.
The practice of ferrying Haj pilgrims between Mumbai and Jeddah by waterways was stopped in 1995. Sending pilgrims through through sea route will help cut down travel expenses significantly. It will be a revolutionary, pro-poor, pilgrim-friendly decision.
Moreover, ships now available are more modern and well-equipped to ferry 4000 to 5000 persons at time. They can cover 2300-odd nautical miles one-side distance between Mumbai and Jeddah within just 3-4 days. Earlier, old ships used to take 12 to 15 days.
India and Saudi Arabia share ideals of global peace, progress and prosperity. Haj pilgrimage is one of strongest pillars of India-Saudi Arabia ties. Till now, around 3 lakh 59 thousand application have been received for Haj 2018.
Recently, Union Government for first time had notified that Indian Muslim Women can now go to Haj without male companion (Mehram). Separate accommodation and transport facilities will be arranged for these women pilgrims in Saudi Arabia and women Haj assistant will be deployed for them.