Saudi Arabia’s promise to increase the Haj quota for India will now see another 30,000 more Indians making the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. The decision will take the current quota of 170,000 to 200,000. The matter came up for discussion during bilateral talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s and Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman in Osaka.

Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, while addressing a press conference after the meeting, said that the Crown Prince has promised PM Modi the quota will be increased.

“This is important and this has been done,” he said.

Gokhale further said that two lakh Indians will have the opportunity to go for Haj which is set to begin very shortly.

Saudi Arabia had in 2018 increased India’s Haj quota by 5,000, and back in 2017, it was increased by about 35,000.

The government had also allowed women to go on Haj without ‘Mehram’ or male companion, which saw about 1,300 women going without any male companion. They had been exempted from the lottery system.

The Haj subsidy provided by the government was removed last year after following the order from the Supreme Court in 2012.

Modi, who is in Japan for the G20 Summit, also discussed the deepening cooperation in trade and investment, energy security and counter-terrorism with the “invaluable strategic partner”. The two leaders also spoke about the need for greater tourism, more flights and agreed to meet again, Gokhale revealed.

The Saudi Crown Prince has also invited the Prime Minister to be one of the main guests at an international conference later this year and he has accepted the invitation with pleasure, the Foreign Secretary said.

With Inputs From PTI