Indians in Saudi Arabia excited over PM visit
The 1.6-million strong expatriate Indian community in Saudi Arabia is excited over Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's three-day visit here and is hoping to gain from it in terms of jobs and security.
"Everybody here is excited about the visit as it will significantly boost the profile of the Indian community in this country," Syed Zia-ur Rahman, editor of NRI portal YaHind.com, said.
"The fact that the prime minister will address the Shura Council (or Majlis as-Shura, the legislative body) is a matter of great pride for us," Rahman, who hails from Andhra Pradesh, said.
He said apart from enhanced cooperation in trade and investment, Indians in Saudi Arabia are hoping that the visit would help them in terms of jobs and security. "We hope that the visit would go a long way in addressing the problems of Indian labourers here," Rahman said, adding: "Many of these problems are accentuated by language barriers."
A vast majority of Indians in the Arabian Gulf
nation are engaged as blue-collar workers in the country's construction sector.
According to Rahman, the population of Indians in Saudi Arabia is bound to increase as the kingdom is building a series of mega cities in its development march and there will be many job openings.
Saudi Ambassador to India Faisal Hassan Trad said the 1.6 million Indians comprise the largest expatriate community in his country.
Trad, who came here ahed of Manmohan Singh's visit, told IANS: "We have around seven million expatriates in Saudi Arabia. So that makes Indians the largest expatriate group. There are people of around 100 nationalities from all Arab, Muslim and western countries."
Stating that Indians have always been welcome in his country, the ambassador said they have helped in the development of Saudi Arabia.
"Also, on the other side, they have helped the Indian economy through their remittances. Those workers remit something around five billion dollars every year. So, you can imagine how this is useful for both sides," he said.
Stating that Indians are among most peaceful people in his country, Trad said: "They (Indians in Saudi Arabia) are humble, they are obedient and they do not have a short temper. That is very important."
According to Trad, the trend of Indians going to Saudi Arabia for jobs will continue, especially in the healthcare sector.
"I believe, during the last year alone, nearly 3,000 visas were issued in the health sector. There is great demand for physicians, lab technicians and nurses, especially Indian nurses. They (Indian nurses) have become number one on the list for both government and private hospitals because of their quality and humanity," he said.
Agreed Abid Moiz, president of the Riyadh-based Indian Doctors Forum. "There are many new healthcare projects coming up in the private sector," he said from Riyadh.
"There is an increasing demand for Indian doctors and nurses."
Moreover, Abid said, the fact that there are 1.6 million Indians in Saudi Arabia makes Indian doctors, nurses and paramedical staff the most preferred.
According to Owais Ahmed, president of the Indian Business Forum in Riyadh, the image of Indians in Saudi Arabia today is different from what it was 10 years ago.
"Today, they (Saudis) look at Indians as friends," he said.
Jayaseelan, president of the Indian Tamil Fine Arts Association in Riyadh, said the profile of Indians among Saudis has undergone a sea change in the last few years, especially since the historic visit of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz to India in 2006.
"King Abdullah's comment in New Delhi that India was his second home completely changed the image of India and Indians among the Saudi people," Jayaseelan said, adding that the prime minister's visit is very important to consolidate this feeling.