NEW DELHI, India
In a significant step, Saudi Arabia has increased India’s Hajj quota from 170,000 to 200,000, paving the way for 30,000 more Indians, to go for the annual pilgrimage.
The decision came after bilateral talks Prime Minister Narendra Modi held with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in Japan on the sidelines of the G20 summit, said a press statement issued by India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
Both sides also discussed the deepening cooperation in trade, investment, energy security and counter-terrorism.
Briefing media, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said that the Crown Prince had promised Prime Minister Modi that India’s Hajj quota would be raised.
“This is important and this has been done,” Press Trust of India (PTI) quoting Gokhale said, immediately after the meeting of leaders.
India will be now sending the second highest number of pilgrims for Hajj after Indonesia.
“The two leaders also spoke about the need for greater tourism, more flights and agreed to meet again,” he said.
This is the third Hajj quota hike for India, after Modi came to power in 2014.
India’s Hajj quota in 2014, used to be at 1,36,000.
Indian government receives more applications than the quota allotted by Saudi Arabia.
After the provincial Hajj committees, call for applications, the pilgrims are selected through a lottery system.
According to the Central Hajj Committee, 2,300 Muslim women will perform Hajj, without ‘Mahram’ or male companion this year.
The government had last year allowed women to travel to Hajj without ‘Mahram’. They have been exempted from the lottery system.