Press Trust of india

Anyone involved in terror must be listed by UN: Saudi FM

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Saudi Arabia increases India's Haj quota to 2 lakh after Modi-Salman talks

New Delhi, Feb 20:  “Any terrorist or anyone who supports and finances terrorism must be proscribed by the United Nations,” Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said on Wednesday, rejecting suggestions that Riyadh was opposed to India's efforts to get JeM chief Masood Azhar banned by the global body.

He also said the Pakistan-Saudi Arabia joint statement during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman to Islamabad on Monday calling for avoiding "politicisation" of the UN listing regime was not at all directed at India's efforts to list Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Azhar as a "global terrorist".

UN-proscribed JeM has claimed responsibility of the suicide attack in which 49 CRPF personnel were killed on February 14 in Kashmir's Pulwama district.

"Any person who is a terrorist should be designated. The idea was to ensure that there is no politicisation so that people do not pit somebody who is a political opponent and put his name as a terrorist," he told PTI in an interview.

The Saudi Foreign Minister said his country follows a policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism and that "anyone who supports and finances terrorism must be designated and punished".

"I think people here assumed that the joint statement had to do with one particular individual (Azhar). It did not. The intention was that the process of designation is clear and not political," he said.

Asked about rising tension between India and Pakistan following the Pulwama attack, he said Saudi Arabia believed that both countries can de-escalate and resolve issues peacefully.

"We hope tension between India and Pakistan will not escalate. You have wise leadership in both the countries represented by respective prime ministers. I believe they will be able to find a way to de-escalate," the Saudi Foreign Minister said.

Asked whether Saaudi Arabia will try to mediate between the two countries, he said "We will not involve ourselves into the tensions between India and Pakistan without being invited by both the countries."

He further said, "We have good relations with both countries and if both want us to play some kind of a role, we would consider it."

The Foreign Minister said no one wants to see armed conflict between the two nuclear powers as only terrorists will benefit from such a confrontation.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday increased India's Haj quota by 25,000, the third hike in three years, taking the number of pilgrims from the country who can perform Haj to two lakh.

The decision was announced by the Ministry of External Affairs after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held talks with visiting Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman here.

While T S Tirumurti, Secretary (Economic Relations) in the MEA, said the implementation of the enhanced quota will depend on logistical and other things, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said it will be effective from this year.

"At our request, Saudi Arabia has decided to increase the quota for Haj pilgrims from India to 2 lakh. This gesture is deeply appreciated," Tirumurti told reporters at a briefing on the talks.

Naqvi hailed the decision and thanked the prime minister, Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, the crown prince and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

"This is the third hike in consecutive years. When the Modi government came to power in 2014, India's Haj quota was 1,36,000, which has now been increased to 2 lakh. This will be the highest number of pilgrims going for Haj from India since independence," Naqvi told PTI.

He said this was possible because of Modi's "very cordial and friendly" relations with the Saudi leadership.

This year, 2,340 Muslim women from India will go for Haj without 'Mehram' or male companion. Also India will be sending the second highest number of pilgrims for Haj after Indonesia, he said.

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

Last year, Saudi Arabia had increased India's Haj quota by 5,000 to 1,75,025, while in 2017 it was increased by about 35,000.

The Haj subsidy provided by the government was removed last year in the light of a Supreme Court order of 2012.

Naqvi had earlier said that digitising Haj-related processes has ensured that the annual pilgrimage remained inexpensive despite the absence of subsidy and made the system "pro-pilgrim".

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