Jaishankar thanks Saudi, Omani Ministers

Jaishankar thanks Saudi, Omani Ministers

‘India will remain a reliable partner’

India on Thursday thanked Saudi Arabia for looking after the expat Indian community as the world continued to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar spoke with his Saudi Arabia and Oman counterparts as the Gulf region began observing the holy month of Ramadan.

“Appreciated the very warm conversation with His Highness Prince Faisal, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia. Thanked him for taking care of the Indian community there. Discussed our shared interests in ensuring health and food security. India will remain a reliable partner,” he said in a social media message after the conversation. It is understood that Delhi has also assured Riyadh that the pandemic will not affect India’s supply of high quality Basmati rice to the monarchy.

The conversation shows that officials continued to stay in touch even as people-to-people ties were strained after notable Arab commentators took to social media over the past few days to highlight incidents of Islamophobia in India. In this context, a source pointed to a tweet sent from a fake Omani account and described it as an “attempt to distort the special relation that India shares with the regional countries”.

Dr. Jaishankar also thanked Foreign Minister Yusuf Alawi of Oman for “taking care” of the Indian community.

Saudi Arabia has witnessed a surge in the COVID-19 cases in recent weeks with reports suggesting that a bulk of the affected patients could be Indian blue collar workers. According to available information, the majority of Indians abroad affected by the virus are located in the Gulf region with Saudi Arabia accounting for 186 and Oman for 238.

Seeking repatriation

Additionally, a large number of Indians in Saudi Arabia have been urging New Delhi to evacuate them.

On Thursday, around 100 of them wrote a joint letter to Dr. Jaishankar seeking evacuation. The Hindu was told that the Indian missions are in contact with expat Indians in the region.

One source indicated that they are aware of cases where Indians employed with local Gulf companies are eager to return as the employers have shut down because of the economic downturn.

The expats have been in contact with the authorities through the COVID-19 cell of the Ministry of External Affairs which has been the coordinating body of the international operations. Sources said the cell has received 3,000 phone calls and 25,000 emails till Thursday from expat Indians and their relatives.

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