In a Quora post from Jan 15, 2024, it is claimed:

There is a strict law in Saudi Arabia that no other head of state can address his citizens or any gathering on Saudi land, even Obama, Nawaz Sharif never got permission but Saudi Arabia changed its law for Narendra Modi , allowing him to address Indians.

Narendra Modi became the first head of world to address his Indian citizens on Saudi’s ground.

Is this true?

1 Answer 1


Has Modi given a speech in Saudi Arabia to an audience of Indian citizens?

Yes. On April 2, 2016, Modi gave a speech at a residential complex in Riyadh, to an audience of (mainly?) expatriate Indian workers. There's an article on his website about the visit, as well as the text of his speech.

Was there a law against this, which was waived or changed to allow the speech?

Undetermined. I haven't found any official evidence of such a law, but there are not many resources on Saudi law in English. Note that Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy, so "Saudi Arabia changed its law" could simply mean that the King, on his own authority, granted an exception.

Modi did say in his speech (Google translated) that "I am also very grateful to His Majesty the King for whenever he gave me the opportunity to talk", but it's not clear whether this was about necessary legal permission, or simply a courteous remark. Of course, for a state visit like this, all events on the itinerary would have been negotiated between the two governments in advance.

An article in Outlook India, dated March 27, 2016 (shortly before Modi's visit), said:

But unlike in the past when he engaged with huge gatherings of Indians in public—including addressing them in different stadiums—he will not be able to do so in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi law prohibits any assembly of people for political reasons. And it is obvious that the Saudi leadership will not allow such a gathering for a foreign leader.

However, no details about the law were given. And it went on to discuss Modi's plan to visit the residential complex (where the audience would be much smaller), without any indication that this would run afoul of any law.

Was it the first time that a foreign leader had addressed "their citizens" in Saudi Arabia?

No. On November 22, 1990, during Operation Desert Shield, U.S. President George H. W. Bush visited Saudi Arabia and gave a speech to an audience of U.S. and British troops stationed there. The visit is attested by the U.S. State Department's Office of the Historian, and I also found a Stars and Stripes archive photo of Bush speaking on that occasion.

I haven't looked for more instances so I am not currently sure if this was common or unusual.

Was it the first time that a foreign leader had addressed "any gathering" in Saudi Arabia?"


I haven't kept looking for more.

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