No talks with Israel on Indian workers replacing Palestinian labour: MEA
An Israeli readout said prime ministers Narendra Modi and Benjamin Netanyahu had discussed "advancing the arrival of foreign workers from India to the State of Israel"
India on Thursday said it has not held any discussion with Israel on the possibility of Indian workers replacing Palestinian labourers in that country.
Following a phone conversation between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, an Israeli readout said the two leaders discussed "advancing the arrival of foreign workers from India to the State of Israel".
On 20 December, a senior executive of the Israel Builders Association (IBA) said a team of "selectors" from Israel had visited India last week and another senior delegation would leave for India next week to begin the process of recruiting thousands of workers to be taken to Israel to fill the acute shortage faced by its construction industry in the wake of work permits for all Palestinians being cancelled owing to the Israel-Hamas war.
"Let me clarify what we said in Parliament and what we said in Parliament stands," ministry of external affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at his weekly media briefing when asked about the issue.
Bagchi also referred to a reply to a question on the matter from minister of state for external affairs V. Muraleedharan in Parliament on 14 December. "The government has not had any discussion with Israel regarding possible replacement of Palestinian labourers with Indian workers," Muraleedharan said in the Rajya Sabha.
Bagchi said the minister's reply had clearly stated that "there have been no discussions with Israel regarding a possible replacement of Palestinian labourers with Indian workers". The MEA spokesperson said Indian nationals are free to go abroad for employment, including to Israel.
"If you are looking at specific job opportunities, Indian citizens are free to go abroad and take up job opportunities. So I am not going to comment on the Israeli readout about the conversation," he added.
Giving a broader context, Bagchi said India has been exploring the option of labour mobility agreements with various countries. Indian nationals are not limited to seeking jobs abroad only through government-to-government mechanisms and a large number of Indians work in several sectors in Israel, especially in the healthcare and caregivers sector.
Asked about reports of eight former Indian Navy personnel on death row in Qatar not getting a royal pardon on the country's national day, Bagchi said he had no information on it.
The Navy veterans were sentenced to death by Qatar's Court of First Instance on 26 October. An appeal against the death sentence has been filed by family members of the personnel.
The Qatari ruler pardons a few prisoners on the country's National Day on 18 December, and there were expectations that the eight Indians might get a pardon. "The case is in the Court of Appeal. There have been three hearings so far, on 23 and 30 November and 7 December," Bagchi said.
"I have no indication of who were the people pardoned and how many Indians were there," he said, adding that New Delhi has not received any information that the eight Indians were on the list. "We have not been formally communicated about the pardon list and how many Indians were on that."
He suggested that there could be some Indians on the list. Qatar has a sizeable number of Indians.