Indian minister visits Madina after New Delhi, Riyadh sign Haj agreement: reports

Indian minister visits Madina after New Delhi

Riyadh, JAN 9: An Indian delegation led by Union Minister Smriti Irani visited Madina over the weekend as part of a two-day trip to Saudi Arabia, Indian media outlets reported.

According to The Indian Express, Irani — who is also the women and child development minister — travelled to Madina along with Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan and other senior officials.

It said the delegation interacted with Indian volunteers “who provide dedicated and selfless service to Indian Haj pilgrims, including during Haj 2023” and Umrah pilgrims from India.

In a post shared on social media platform X on Monday, Irani shared photos from her visit and said: “Undertook a historic journey to Medina today, one of Islam’s holiest cities included a visit to the periphery of the revered Prophet’s Mosque, Al Masjid Al Nabwi, the mountain of Uhud, and periphery of the Quba Mosque — the first Mosque of Islam.”

She added that the significance of the visit to these sites “intertwined with early Islamic history” and “underscores the depth of our cultural and spiritual engagement”.

It must be noted that non-Muslims were not allowed to visit Madina up until 2021, after which a relaxation of rules allowed them to visit the city centre up to the periphery of the Prophet’s Mosque.

According to The Indian Express, Irani’s visit came two days after India and Saudi Arabia signed a bilateral agreement under which New Delhi was allocated a quota of 175,025 pilgrims for this year’s annual Haj pilgrimage.

“The Bilateral Haj Agreement 2024 was signed with Tawfiq bin Fawzan Al-Rabiah, the Saudi Minister for Hajj and Umrah, at Jeddah,” it said.

Meanwhile, a report published in India Today said Irani’s visit to Saudi Arabia would “give an idea of the arrangements required to be made for the Haj pilgrimage this year”.

“The Government of India is deeply committed to assist in providing facilities and services to Indian Muslims who undertake the Haj pilgrimage, thereby providing them with a comfortable and fulfilling experience,” it quoted an official statement as saying.

“India and Saudi Arabia share warm and cordial ties and the Government of India deeply appreciates the special gesture of Saudi’s Ministry of Hajj and Umrah in facilitating this visit of the Indian delegation to Madinah,” the statement added.