NEW DELHI: Downplaying concerns over deportation of illegal Indian workers in Gulf countries including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, India yesterday said it is an opportunity to correct their work status and that it is better to be deported than to be put in jails there. The issue is likely to figure during the talks Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah will have with top leadership here during his fourday visit beginning today. “I think it is good for our people that they are sent back rather than put into jails,” Joint Secretary (Gulf Region) Mridul Kumar said, adding that actions are being taken against those found violating the laws of the respective countries.

Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi had yesterday said that around 1.34 lakh Indians have already come back from Saudi Arabia after the country launched a strict inspection campaign to target illegal foreigners earlier this year and the extended deadline expired on November 3. Kumar said 4,500 to 5,000 Indians have been sent back by Kuwait this year which is less than last year’s figure. “When you have got a huge expatriate population within your country, it is a very sovereign right of a sovereign nation to decide what kind of treatment people who are in violation of their law would meet,” said Kumar. MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said this was an opportunity for illegal workers to leave those countries without facing any major penalty and correct their work status.

On visit of Sheikh Jaber, Kumar said India was looking forward to upgrade its relationship with the oil-rich nation from “buyer-seller” to that of a “strategic” level and that enhancing ties in diverse sectors including in energy security, trade and investment will be discussed. “It is a very special visit for us,” he said. It will be the first head of governmentlevel visit from Kuwait to India since the post of Crown Prince and Prime Minister was bifurcated in the Gulf nation in 2003. The last high-level visit to Kuwait from India was in 1981 when the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had gone there. Kumar said India was interested in having joint ventures with Kuwait in petro chemicals and fertiliser sectors. Sheikh Jaber, who will be accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising ministers, senior officials and captains of industry, will hold talks with the top leadership including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.