Indians pay tribute to Saudi king, national mourning Saturday

New Delhi: India's leaders Friday paid respect to deceased Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, and announced a one-day national mourning Saturday in his respect.

The national flag will be flown at half mast throughout the day across India.

"His majesty King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, custodian of the two holy mosques, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has passed away. As a mark of respect to the departed dignitary, the government of India has decided that there will be one day's national mourning Jan 24," said a statement from the home ministry.

"The national flag will be flown at half mast Jan 24 throughout India and there will be no official entertainment on the day," the statement said.

Indian leaders, led by President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Friday condoled his death and said he was a "guiding force" and a "close friend" of India.

In a condolence message, Mukherjee said: "My heartfelt condolences to the government, royal family and people of Saudi Arabia over the sad demise of King Abdullah."

The Saudi king died of complications from pneumonia early Friday.

The president said: "In his passing away, Saudi Arabia had lost a beloved leader, India a close friend and the world, an elder statesman.

"King Abdullah had genuine warmth and affection for India and our people. He was personally committed to improving bilateral ties with India," a statement from Rashtrapati Bhavan said.

Describing the Saudi king as a guiding force, Modi said: "In King Abdullah, we have lost an important voice, who left a lasting impact on his country. I condole his demise."

"Our thoughts are with the people of Saudi Arabia, who have lost a guiding force in King Abdullah, during this hour of grief. A few days ago, I spoke to Crown Prince Salman and enquired about King Abdullah's health. News of King Abdullah's passing away is saddening," he said.

India's energy security depends a lot on Saudi Arabia which accounts for 20 percent of the country's oil imports.

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy recalled the Saudi king as one who in general was considerate to Indians, particularly to Keralites.

He fondly recalled that during the period when Nitaqat (a Saudi government initiative to boost local employment) was in force in the oil-rich kingdom in 2013, it was through the king's intervention that many requests to the Saudi government were accepted.

"Over the past many decades, Saudi Arabia has been home to lakhs of Keralites, who earn a living by working there and the departed's vision made this happen," Chandy said in a message.

According to a recent study on the diaspora by the Centre for Development Studies, of the 2.36 million Kerala diaspora, 25.2 percent are in Saudi Arabia.

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