India and Saudi Arabia have signed a bilateral agreement that allows more than 1.75 lakh Indian pilgrims to perform the annual Haj pilgrimage in 2024.
The agreement was signed by Minority Affairs Minister Smriti Irani and Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan with Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Tawfiq bin Fawzan in Jeddah.
Out of the total quota of 1,75,025 pilgrims, 1,40,020 will go through the Haj Committee of India, which will benefit the common first-time pilgrims, while 35,005 will go through Haj Group Operators.
Irani announced the agreement on X and said she had productive discussions with the Saudi minister on matters of mutual interest. She also praised the Saudi delegation for appreciating India’s digital initiatives, especially in providing last-mile information to pilgrims.
She said they also discussed plans to improve medical facilities and ensure the well-being of all pilgrims. She added that India’s proposal to encourage women without Mehram to participate in the Haj pilgrimage showed its commitment to inclusivity.
She expressed her gratitude for the collaborative spirit and hoped to strengthen the bilateral relations further.
The ministry said in a statement that the Saudi side also offered to extend all possible help to India’s digital initiatives, which facilitated and promoted ease and convenience for the Haj pilgrims. It said the initiative to encourage women without Mehram was lauded by the Saudi side.
After signing the agreement and meeting the Saudi minister, Irani and Muraleedharan visited the Haj Terminal of King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah to inspect the arrangements for Haj pilgrims and explore ways to improve logistics and monitoring mechanisms.
The statement said the Indo-Saudi partnership has grown in recent years, with sustained engagement in various sectors. It said the visit will further enhance the strategic partnership, with Haj as a key aspect of the relationship.