No downgrade in service personnel’s ranks, clarifies ministry of defence

NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Defence on Thursday clarified that there has been no move to downgrade the ranks of service personnel relative to their civilian counterparts. Reacting to reports and messages circulating in the social media that the government has lowered the status of military officers with respect to their civilian counterparts in the Armed Forces Headquarters, the ministry released an official statement. “It is clarified that there has been no downgrading or any change in the existing equivalence of the Service ranks whatsoever,” the statement said. The ministry said the existing functional equivalence, as clarified in 1991 and further reiterated in 1992, 2000, 2004 and 2005, has only been re-affirmed. It was further clarified that the present reiteration of rank equivalence is only for matters of assigning duties and functional responsibilities as is already existing in different offices of the respective service headquarters of the armed forces. There are nearly 160 civilians working in the service headquarters. “It has no bearing on civilian employees outside these offices of the Service HQrs,” the ministry said

MLC’s son in road rage: SC stays bail, Rocky Yadav to go back to jail

NEW DELHI: Rakesh Ranjan alias Rocky Yadav, who allegedly shot dead a Class XII student for overtaking his SUV in Bihar, will have to go back to jail with the Supreme Court today staying a Patna High Court order granting him bail. A bench headed by Justice S A Bobde sought response from Rocky, son of a suspended JD(U) MLC, on a plea of Bihar government challenging the bail granted to him on October 19. Senior advocate Rajiv Dutta, appearing for Bihar government, said this was an open-and-shut case and the youth was highly intoxicated. Hence, his bail should be immediately cancelled or the order of the Patna High Court stayed. The bench said that “charge sheet has already been filed in the case and this may go against you”. The court said it was issuing notice to the respondent (Rocky) and posted the hearing after Diwali. Rocky, son of suspended JD(U) MLC Manorama Devi and alleged history sheeter Bindi Yadav, is accused of shooting and killing Aditya Sachdeva, a Class XII student who was driving his Maruti car, for overtaking his SUV on May 7 this year near Gaya. Police had filed a charge sheet in a Gaya court against Rocky and another accused in connection with the murder. They had also filed charge sheet against Rocky’s cousin Teni Yadav, his father Bindi Yadav and his MLC mother’s bodyguard, Rajesh Kumar, in the murder case. The state government had put the case on speedy trial and investigation was completed in three weeks and charge sheet filed within a month of the incident. Rocky is facing two cases – one of murder of Aditya and another under Excise Act for recovery of liquor bottles from the house of his mother. He was arrested from his father’s mixer plant in Gaya on May 10. His name was included along with his father Bindi Yadav in the case of recovery of liquor bottles which were found when police raided his mother’s house looking for Rocky.

Samajwadi Party family feud: Work begins on grand alliance in Uttar Pradesh

LUCKNOW: SP leader Shivpal Yadav has said his outfit was willing to make adjustments to rope in all ‘socialist and secular forces’ for an alliance in the forthcoming assembly polls to UP. Yadav, who was in New Delhi in the last two days, has invited former PM Deve Gowda (JDS), Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav and KC Tyagi (JD-U), RLD chief Ajit Singh and leaders of RJD, INLD and Congress for the SP’s silver jubilee celebrations. “I am willing to step down from the state chief post also. Even some former Samajwadi leaders who were neglected will be brought back. We will not let communal forces to come to power in UP,” he said in Lucknow on Thursday. Yadav is working overtime to ensure a grand presence of socialist belonging to various parties and states for the silver jubilee celebrations of the Samajwadi Party to be held in Lucknow on November 5. The function is expected to send out strong signals on the formation of a grand coalition on the lines of the Bihar grand alliance. He also took a pot shot at expelled SP general secretary Ramgopal Yadav. “I will now be careful of intellectuals and think tanks. They damaged the party a lot, while enjoying all benefits. I have toured UP more than these leaders, who are claiming victory again.” Shivpal said that those who wanted to profit and indulge in corruption would be shown the door and the party would be run only on ‘socialist credentials
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    Indian ambassador calls on Prince Sultan

    RIYADH — Indian Ambassador Ahmad Javed called on Prince Sultan Bin Salman, president of Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) at his office here on Wednesday. The discussion focused on enhancement of bilateral cooperation in the fields of handicrafts, restoration of national heritage and promotion of tourism. The commission expressed keen interest in strengthening cooperation in the training programs by Indian experts in fabric, metal and wood works. Exchange of visits by experts in these fields is to be encouraged between the two countries. — SG

    Saudi financial position strong: Minister

    RIYADH — Saudi Arabia’s financial position remains strong despite sinking oil prices, although there is “some pressure” on bank liquidity, the finance minister has said. “We have been able to maintain a good position in public finances,” Ibrahim Al-Assaf told a seminar. “We have been able to maintain the stability of government reserves as they are still high. The level of debt remains low. The Kingdom’s banks still have strong balance sheets and relatively high levels of capital adequacy and liquidity ratios, despite some pressure on liquidity at the system level in general,” he said. Assaf said officials “continue to periodically review our policies relating to financial stability”. Saudi Arabia has taken a series of austerity measures, including subsidy cuts and reductions in government salaries. Earlier this year, it announced a wide-ranging plan to diversify its economy. Assaf and his Gulf counterparts were meeting in Riyadh on Wednesday with International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde. On Sunday, Saudi Oil Minister Khaled Al-Falih said the current cycle of falling crude prices is close to an end as market fundamentals improve. — AFP
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    Indian-Americans raise over USD 10 million for Clinton Campaign

    Indian-Americans are believed to have raised at least USD 10 million towards the election campaign to elect Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as the next president of the US. At least two of the Indian-Americans — philanthropist Frank Islam from Maryland and Shefali Razdan Duggal from California — alone have helped raising a million dollar each for the presidential campaign of the former First Lady and the secretary of state, campaign insiders told PTI. Notably the Hillary Campaign does not give details of the major fundraisers and the amount of money raised by them. It does have a group called ‘Hillblazers’ which has list of individuals who have contributed and/or raised USD 100,000 or more for Ms. Hillary for America, the Hillary Victory Fund, and/or the Hillary Action Fund since the launch of this historic campaign on April 12, 2015. Among those listed in the latest list of Hillblazers released by the Clinton Campaign are more than 30 Indian Americans, each of them raising a minimum of USD 100,000. However, these Indian-Americans are reported to have raised much more than that, campaign insiders said. For instance, Ajay and Vinita Bhutoria from San Francisco is understood to have contributed or raised more than USD 500,000 for the Hillary Campaign. Among other Indian-American Hillblazers as released by the Hillary Campaign are Monica Arora and Raj Goyle from New York, Raj Fernando from Chicago, Mahinder Tak from Maryland, Seema R. Hingorani from New York, Shekar Narshiman from Virginia, Kamil and Talat Hasan from California. While there is no compilation of fund raising figures based on ethnicity, multiple sources said that they estimate the conservative amount of money raised by Indian-Americans for Ms. Clinton is at least USD 10 million. It is also believed that Indian-Americans are only second highest fund raiser after the powerful and influential Israeli American community. Among other Indian-Americans who figure in Hillblazers are Shradha Agarwal from Chicago, Ankit N. Desai from Washington DC, Aashish and Dinyar Devitre from New York, Sanjay Govil from Maryland, Maneesh K. Goyal from New York, Margaret and Shashikant Gupta from Virginia; Amrita and Ashok Mahbubani from Alabama, Deven J. Parekh from New York, and Reshma M. Saujani from New York. Radhika Shah from Silicon Valley, Rishi Shah and Smita Shah from Chicago; Kabir and Noreen Shahani from Seattle, M. Osman Siddique from Virginia, Amy Singh from Chicago, Smita Singh from San Francisco; Pradeep and Ranjana Sinha from Atlanta have also raised a minimum of USD 100,000 for the Hillary Campaign.

    Support For ‘My Girl’ Hillary Clinton Is Personal, Says Michelle Obama

    WINSTON-SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA, USA: As first ladies they could hardly have been more different. But as Democrats looking to fire up female voters, Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton were firmly bonded on Thursday. In their first joint appearance on the campaign trail, Michelle Obama and Clinton talked up their shared respect, common values and singular goal: Defeating Republican Donald Trump. They papered over a somewhat rocky history and their vastly different paths through public life. With Michelle Obama aiming to secure her husband’s legacy and Clinton needing to propel women to the polls, the two women sought to celebrate their political marriage of mutual interest, and reassure voters it’s real. “Seriously, is there anyone more inspiring than Michelle Obama?” Clinton asked, as a crowd in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, answered with cheers. Michelle Obama declared the feeling mutual. She referred to Clinton as “my girl” and offered reassurance that her testimony for Clinton is both personal and political. Since she’s emerged as Clinton’s headline-grabbing surrogate, people wonder one thing, Michelle Obama noted. “Yes, Hillary Clinton is my friend,” she answered. It’s a reasonable question. In the East Wing, Clinton dived into policy, undertook a massive project and failed under a harsh spotlight. Michelle Obama largely steered clear and enjoyed quieter, modest success. Both Ivy League-trained lawyers with their own careers, Clinton bridled under the stereotypes associated with the office, while Michelle Obama declared herself “mom-in-chief.” While Clinton held onto her maiden name, her Democratic successor let it be known she preferred the “Mrs.” title. And when her time in the White House was ending, Clinton began plotting her return to Washington. Michelle Obama hasn’t hidden her readiness to leave. The White House has quickly and repeatedly shot down any talk of the first lady continuing in politics. Acknowledging her reluctance in the political spotlight, she said, “I would not be here” if she didn’t believe so strongly Clinton would be a president she would trust. “I believe with all of my heart that Hillary Clinton will be that president,” she said. Clinton’s day in North Carolina turned into a college tour, as she tried to push young voters to the polls. After the rally, Clinton drove to Greensboro, where she greeted students at an early voting site at University of North Carolina-Greensboro. She then dropped in on a homecoming pep rally at the historically black North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University nearby. The former secretary of state was greeted by a DJ blasting hip-hop, a dance troupe, a marching band and deafening cheers at the surprise stop. “The Aggies are in the house!” she cheered back. “I hope you will all vote in this election because it’s so much about you!” she said. Michelle Obama’s appearances have become a key part of Clinton’s effort to fire up women – particularly black women, for whom she’s a model and a source of pride. And Democrats have relished Michelle Obama’s speeches as high points of the campaign cycle. Her passionate response to Trump’s vulgar comments about women brought an emotional resonance that Clinton, who rarely gets personal on the stump, doesn’t often deliver. Both Clinton and Michelle Obama on Thursday revived a line from the latter’s speech at the Democratic National Convention – “When they go low, we go high” – turning it into a call and response. The Winston-Salem event drew some 11,000 people, according to the fire marshal, one of largest crowds of Clinton’s campaign. Trump repeatedly boasts that his crowds are generally larger than hers. The audience roared as the two women walked onstage, turned to each other and embraced, the first lady towering over the shorter candidate. The new partnership has made for a striking odd couple on substance, too. As first lady, Michelle Obama has largely dodged controversial issues. She’s stayed focused on her projects involving healthful eating, exercise, support for military families and education for girls – avoiding public opinions on thornier subjects. She’s mastered the art of advocacy through popular culture, while in recent years all but ignoring the possibility of policymaking through legislation. She’s cultivated a brand built on style, glamour and fashion. It’s a tenure that bears little resemblance to her Democratic predecessor in the East Wing. Clinton came in promising, along with her husband, a new kind of partnership in the White House. Hillary Clinton was a veteran of the feminist movement and ready to expand the office of first lady to suit her experience and passion for policy. She had an office in the West Wing, took over the health care overhaul effort and ultimately became a target of investigations and criticism alongside her husband. That’s something Michelle Obama and her aides sought to avoid. Asked to cite role models, Obama has named Eleanor Roosevelt and Jacqueline Kennedy. The Clintons and Obamas themselves have a fraught history, one that includes both spouses. While Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton battled in 2008, Michelle Obama raised questions about her husband’s opponent, framing the choice between the two as “about character.” Since then the women have publicly buried the hatchet. The differences between Clinton’s and Michelle Obama’s tenures speak in some ways to the differences in their generations – Clinton representing the first wave of baby boomers eager to push boundaries, while Obama benefited from lessons learned, noted Carl Sferrazza Anthony, a historian at the National First Ladies Library. “Beneath the surface they both brought a sense of rigor and structure and focus,” he said. “They were very objective-oriented.” Those objectives were clearly different, he said. “I think Michelle Obama may end up being perhaps one of the most influential first ladies when it comes to influence on the American public, whereas Hillary has been one of the most important in terms of achievement in terms of policy.”
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    Indian-origin bus driver burnt alive in Australia - Oct 28 2016

    MELBOURNE: In a horrific incident, a 29-year- old Indian-origin bus driver was today burned to death when a man poured some flammable liquid on him in front of several shocked passengers in Australia’s Brisbane city, police said. Manmeet Alisher, a well-known singer in the Punjabi community, was driving a Brisbane City Council bus when he was targeted by the man who threw an “incendiary device” at him which sparked a fire. Alisher died on the spot while several passengers on board the bus at the time managed to escape through the rear door, said police in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland. Six persons were rushed to a nearby hospital for smoke inhalation and minor injuries, they said. Police said there was “no apparent motive” including terror or race related. A 48-year-old man was taken into custody over the incident. Detectives from South Brisbane district and the state crime command’s homicide group have commenced a homicide investigation, Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said. Preliminary inquiries indicate just after 9 AM (local time) passengers were boarding a bus on Beaudesert Road when a man threw an item at the driver causing fire, police said. Police said the bus, carrying six passengers, pulled into Moorvale Shopping Centre on Beaudesert Road to pick up three passengers when the incident took place. Flags will be flown at half mast across Brisbane tomorrow as a mark of respect for the Alisher. Stewart ruled out any possibilities of the attack being a racially motivated one, saying there was no such indication. “There is no evidence at this time of any linkage to terrorist-type activities and certainly that has not become evident through the ongoing investigations that have occurred. We do not believe there is any evidence at this stage linking this to a racial complaint or concern by either of the people involved,” Stewart saidWhile we do not know the actual motive at this stage, I want to reassure the community that we take these incidents very seriously and that is why as a precaution, officers from the state security and counter terrorism group have also been involved,” he said Meanwhile, the Punjabi community in Brisbane expressed shock over the death of Manmeet Alisher, also known as Manmeet Sharma.”Words escape me, it is a horrific incident here in the quiet suburb of Moorooka,” Queensland Police Superintendent Jim Keogh said.   “A bus driver, going about doing his business, supporting the community, has had his life taken from him in what is a senseless and needless act. The fire was substantial, he would have stood little chance,” he said.
    Mushaira and literary eve “Reet is Nagar ki Hai” held in Riyadh

    Mushaira and literary eve “Reet is Nagar ki Hai” held in Riyadh - Oct 28 2016

    Mohammed Saifuddin – After a long time, the Urdu community in Riyadh have got an opportunity to witness and enjoy an evening of poetry recitation (Mushaira), short story telling (afsana) and humorous readings. The event titled “Reet Is Nagar ki Hai” was organized at the auditorium of Green Crescent Hospital in Riyadh. With elite literary figures of the city in presence, the illustrious event was arranged by the hospital staffers and Urdu lovers Javeed Ali Afroz and Mahmood Zafar. The event had prose and poetry segments. In the first session of prose Javeed Ali Afroz tickled the bones of audience when he read his humorous article “angrezi aur deegar zabanon ki aisi ki taisi”  making a fun of how the people misuse the language which creates humor. Khaja Masiuddin Abu Nabeel delivered a message of religious harmony and touched the issue of tolerance through his short story. After a short break the stage got illuminated with the stars of the eve. As the poets were invited to take their seat, it was as if the galaxy is getting lined-up with shining stars. The Indian and Pakistani poets from Riyadh and Dammam were on the dais. Amidst huge applause the mushaira was inaugurated with lighting of lamp. This formality was performed by senior community leaders and chief guests; President Tanzeem Hum Hindustani Mohammed Quaiser, President Hindustani Bazm-e-Urdu Architect Abdulrahman Saleem and professor Iqbal Ejaz. Senior poet professor Iqbal Aijaz Baig presided the colorful Mushaira. In his address he said that only few organization are seriously working for the promotion of Urdu language. Describing Urdu poetry he said when an emotion find its thought and the thought find words” The poetry reflects the thought of his mind. Prof. Iqbal Aijaz Baig, Ayub Tishna, Chowdry Mansur, Syed Akthar Falahi, Khaja Masiuddin Abu Nabil, Rizwan ul Haq, Hisham Syed, Kursheed ul Hassan Nayyer, Dawood Uslubi, Sadaf Fareedi and Dr. Shafq Nadvi recited their renderings amidst applause and appreciation from audience. Zafar Mahmood; who is a son of prominent Indian poet Hafeez Banarsi, presented the copy of his father’s poetry collection “Safeer-e-Shahr-e-Dil” to his long time buddy and colleague Javid Ali Afroz. Community leaders from different organizations and prominent members of the Indian and Pakistani communities were among the audience who enjoyed every bit of the evening. At the beginning, Hafez Khaja Kaleemuddin recited the verses of Holy Quran and Zafar Mahmood recited the naat.
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    Indian envoy sees good scope for  expanding Indo-Saudi ties

    Indian envoy sees good scope for expanding Indo-Saudi ties

    H.E. AHMAD JAVED, AMBASSADOR OF INDIA TO THE KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA By: Syed Zia ur Rahman, India’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Ahmad Javed, has said that despite the 38% fall in crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia in value terms, there has been a 15% surge in the volume of crude oil sourced from the Kingdom. In an exclusive interview with, the Ambassador also disclosed Saudi willingness to invest in the Indian petrochemical and refining sectors. He said India is keen on expanding the existing cooperation within the framework of the National Transformation Plan (NTP) Vision 2030. This is in addition to the ongoing tie-up in the fields of trade, commerce and security. Ambassador Javed also said India can share its expertise in healthcare, pharmaceuticals, IT, Science & Technology as well as in higher education, where its experience could be of great value to Saudi Arabia. The following is the text of the interview: 1. Your Excellency, there have been reports in the news media about a few Indian youths joining the ISIS from the Gulf countries. Since some Saudi youths have also crossed over from Saudi borders to Syria, how do you see the scope for cooperation between the two countries on the security front? India and Saudi Arabia have a strategic partnership which encompasses political, economic, and defence cooperation, including the sphere of security. The visit of our Hon’ble Prime Minister to Riyadh in April 2016 was a landmark development in our bilateral relationship. It has helped in further strengthening and expanding the various facets of our relationship 2. In what other areas have the bilateral relations expanded following the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Riyadh early this year? India and Saudi Arabia enjoy cordial and friendly relations in economic and socio-cultural fields. The establishment of diplomatic relations in 1947 was followed by high-level visits from both sides. Recently, there has been a renewed impetus on further consolidating and diversifying our ties with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia culminating in the Prime Minister’s visit to Riyadh in April this year. It marks a turning point in our growing engagement with the Kingdom in a strategic direction. 3. What is the current volume of trade between the two countries and the scope for further expansion? Saudi Arabia is our 4th largest trading partner and also a major player in the energy security sector. India imports almost 20% of its crude oil requirement from the Kingdom. The volume of bilateral trade during 2015-16 stands at $26.71 billion as against $39.27 during the previous year. The reduction in the bilateral trade is on account of the drop in oil prices since 2014. Despite the reduction in crude oil imports from Saudi Arabia by 38% in value terms, there has been a 15% increase in the volume of crude oil sourced from the Kingdom. There is growing realization on both sides to transform the buyer-seller relationship in the energy sector to one of deeper partnership focusing on investment and joint ventures in their countries. During the visit of our Hon’ble Prime Minister and the follow- up visit by the Minister of State (IC) for Petroleum and Natural Gas, the Saudi side showed interest in investing in the Indian petrochemical and refining sectors. 4. In terms of joint ventures, how do you see the depth of these relations? Indian companies in almost all sectors have a strong presence in the Kingdom. Construction giants like L&T and Shapoorji & Pallonji have been operating in the Kingdom for the last several years and have undertaken important projects. In other sectors, Indian IT majors like TCS, Wipro and TechMahindra have established their strong presence not only in the private sector but also in the government sector. India looks forward to expanding the existing cooperation under the National Transformation Plan (NTP) Vision 2030. 5. The Kingdom’s leadership is paying great attention to Saudization of the work force in the wake of the fall in oil prices and the need to diversify its economic base. How do you see the potential for expanding these relations in other fields? As mentioned earlier, India is ready to cooperate with the Saudi Government to realise the objectives of Vision 2030. India can share its expertise, inter-alia, in healthcare and pharmaceuticals as well as IT, Science & Technology. Our experience in higher education could also be of great help to Saudi Arabia. 6. Are any joint ventures in the pipeline between the two countries? The recent visit of the Hon’ble Prime Minister to the Kingdom has generated a lot of interest among Indian and Saudi Businessmen. We are hopeful that after the Prime Minister’s interaction with the prominent Saudi business leaders, there will be new ventures in India and Saudi Arabia. 7. At present, Saudi Arabia does not have a National Productivity Center for boosting the productivity of its manpower. This is a matter of concern to the Council of Saudi Chambers of Commerce and Industry, since thousands of shops have been closed down due to the departure of expatriates, including Indians, who were running such enterprises. Has your embassy taken up this matter at the bilateral level? Indians continue to be the preferred and the largest expatriate community in the Kingdom with its strength increasing from 2.75 million in 2014 to 3.05 million in February 2016 on account of their skills, willingness to work hard, trustworthiness and law abiding nature. While we have seen reports about Saudisation in certain sectors of the economy, the Mission has not come across any complaints from the Indian workers, on account of these measures. 8. There have been reports in the Indian news media about Indian expatriates in Saudi Arabia affected by the non-payment of salaries for several months. Has your embassy intervened in the matter and with what result? We have come across complaints from some Indian workers, especially in the construction sector, for non-payment of their salaries for the last several months. The Mission has taken up this matter with the Saudi authorities at the highest level. The Saudi side has assured its full cooperation in addressing all the issues faced by our workers. 9. There have been suggestions in some quarters that the Govt. of India should put in place a mechanism for rehabilitating the returnees from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries. Has your embassy received any such instructions from the Ministry of External Affairs following the recent visit of the Minister of State for External Affairs Gen. V.K. Singh to Jeddah? Since the issue of rehabilitation of returning workers is handled by the Government of India and the respective State Governments, I may not be able to comment on it. The role of the Mission is limited to ensuring the welfare of our workers in the Kingdom. 10. Union Minister of Commerce, Smt Nirmala Sitharaman, has called for setting up joint ventures in India on a PPP model for utilizing the financial and technical resources of NRIs and returnees from the GCC countries in collaboration with the private sector. They could be in the field of community services like education, healthcare, agriculture, sanitation and wastewater treatment, for which there will always be a demand. In fact, she has shown the way by setting up a Reverse Osmosis (RO) wastewater treatment plant in her constituency in Andhra Pradesh. How do you see the scope for such a joint venture based on a PPP model? As you may be aware, the Indian nationals can directly contribute towards several flagship initiatives undertaken by the Government including ‘Namami Gange’ and ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’. Recently, we have established the India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians (IDF-OI), as a not-for-profit organization to serve as a credible institutional avenue to enable Overseas Indians to engage in social and development projects in India. IDF-OI will also partner with the State Governments to offer projects identified by the State Governments. It will seek Overseas Indians’ contribution to these projects for India’s social and development programme. 11. Any other message that Your Excellency would like to put across through The presence of a vibrant Indian community of over 3 million in Saudi Arabia is a strong pillar of our bilateral engagements. I am proud to mention that the significant contribution of our Indian brothers and sisters to the development of the host country has been well-acknowledged and appreciated by the leadership as well as the people of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his Government for their continued support and cooperation for hosting a large Indian community in the Kingdom and ensuring their welfare and security. I am confident that the Indo-Saudi relations will continue to grow and contribute to peace, stability and prosperity in the region and beyond. –

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