New Delhi: Calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi his “elder brother”, whose demand he couldn’t refuse, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Wednesday agreed to increase the Haj quota for India to 200,000.
The new number is 15,000 more than the quota for Pakistan, which itself was increased by 5,000 only last December.
The decision to increase the quota for India was taken over lunch Wednesday after the one-on-one talks between Modi and the Crown Prince, also known as MBS, said officials present.
They said that it was the Crown Prince who broached the subject to India’s Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, saying: “So, you have asked for an increase in Haj quota to 190,000.”
Modi joined in the conversation and urged him to increase it to 200,000, said official sources. MBS promptly agreed, saying: “You are my elder brother. We will do whatever you want.”
On a visit to Jeddah last December, Naqvi had requested the Saudi authorities to increase India’s Haj quota from 170,000 to 190,000, in proportion to the population of Muslims in India.
Bonhomie will help fight against terror
Government sources cited the Crown Prince’s prompt response to Modi’s demand to buttress the point that there is a strong bonhomie between the him and the Indian PM, “which would go a long way in dealing with Pakistan in the context of India’s fight against terrorism”.
The Indian prime minister had broken protocol to welcome MBS on the tarmac at the airport with a warm hug, drawing sharp criticism from the opposition Congress.
“National Interests V/S Modiji’s ‘hugplomacy’… Breaking protocol, Grand welcome to those who pledged $20 Billion to Pak & praised Pak’s ‘anti-terror’ efforts. Is it ur way of remembering martyrs of Pulwama?” the Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted.
The party itself later tweeted: “By breaking protocol and welcoming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman with such abundance – only hours after he promised billions to Pakistan – PM Modi has shown the country, the martyrs and every soldier in India what he thinks of their service & sacrifice.”