The signing of the Bilateral Hajj Agreement 2024 between India and Saudi Arabia marked a pivotal moment in securing equitable access for pilgrims
In a comprehensive review of the preparations for the upcoming Haj pilgrimage, Muktesh Pardeshi, Secretary of Consular Passport Visa (CPV) and Overseas Indian Affairs (OIA), embarked on a visit to Saudi Arabia from May 4, 2024 onwards to ensure seamless arrangements for Indian pilgrims. His journey to significant locations in Saudi Arabia underlines India's unwavering dedication to providing an excellent pilgrimage experience, especially for first-time visitors.

Pardeshi's inspection began at the Jeddah Haj Terminal, where he met with airport authorities and relevant agencies to streamline arrival and departure procedures for Indian pilgrims. This assessment aims to enhance the efficiency of the process, reducing travel fatigue and administrative obstacles. Pardeshi was joined by Indian Ambassador Suhel Ajaz Khan and Consul General Mohd. Shahid Alam, who emphasized the need for smooth airport operations to ensure a positive and memorable pilgrimage journey.

In Madina, Pardeshi visited Markazia, the primary accommodation hub for Indian pilgrims. He inspected the Indian Haj Pilgrims office and dispensary to verify the quality of healthcare and logistical services available to the pilgrims. These comprehensive assessments ensure that the accommodations are not only comfortable but also culturally respectful and logistically practical. This visit also underscored the collaborative relationship between the Indian and Saudi authorities, ensuring that pilgrims receive the highest standard of care.

The delegation didn't limit itself to logistical concerns; it also delved into the spiritual dimension of the pilgrimage. Pardeshi and his team visited the vicinity of the Prophet’s Mosque, explored the Mountain of Uhud, and toured the periphery of the Quba Mosque. 

Earlier this year, the signing of the Bilateral Haj Agreement 2024 between India and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia marked a pivotal moment in securing equitable access for pilgrims. A quota of 175,025 Indian pilgrims has been finalized, with 140,020 reserved for the Haj Committee of India. This prioritization of first-time pilgrims aligns with India's commitment to enhancing their spiritual journey. The remaining slots will be allocated to private Hajj Group Operators, offering a wider range of travel options.

MEA Secretary Pardeshi’s visit occurred within the broader context of India's growing strategic relationship with Saudi Arabia. During the India state visit of Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in September 2023.

The two nations signed eight key agreements, reinforcing bilateral cooperation in energy, digitalization, investment, and governance. These agreements aim to strengthen ties in sectors such as electronic manufacturing, renewable energy, and anti-corruption.

The two sides stressed the importance of enhancing cooperation in areas that aim to advance the economic partnership between the two countries.

Significant Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) were also signed between private companies from both nations, facilitated by Invest India and the Saudi Ministry of Investment. This collaboration reflects the increasing business engagement between the two countries, encompassing sectors like IT, agriculture, pharmaceuticals, petrochemicals, and human resources.

The Crown Prince lauded India's successful G20 presidency and expressed optimism about future joint initiatives that will benefit both nations and the global community.