Riyadh : Vice President M. Hamid Ansari on Sunday reached Riyadh as part of an official delegation representing India to offer condolences over the demise of Saudi Arabia ruler King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud. The delegation included Minister of State for Minority Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Members of Parliament Gulam Nabi Azad and MJ Akbar, among other senior officials. Vice President Ansari was received at the Riyadh Air Base by Riyadh Governor Prince Turki Bin Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, Saudi Arabia Deputy Minister of Royal Protocol Abdul Aziz Aqeeli, Riyadh Air Base commander Air Vice-Marshal Mohammed Bin Saeed Al-Ghamdi and Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Hamid Ali Rao.
King Abdullah, who is considered the custodian of the two holy mosques, the al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and the al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina, passed away on Friday at the age of 90. The cause of death was not revealed, but Saudi Government officials said that the monarch had been in hospital since December and had been placed on a respirator. The royal court, in an announcement quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency, said the king had a lung infection when he was admitted on December 31 to the Riyadh hospital named for his father, Abdul Aziz.
Succession was swift. Abdullah’s brother and Crown Prince, Salman, has been named as the next King of Saudi Arabia in a statement attributed to him on Saudi state television. King Abdullah, who came to the throne in old age, had earned a reputation as a cautious reformer. Meanwhile, the Government of India had declared Saturday as a day of national mourning as a mark of respect to the departed dignitary and had decreed that the national flag would be flown at half mast throughout the country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee had both expressed their heartfelt condolences at the demise of the monarch, also sharing their commiserations on their official twitter accounts.