Tuesday, April 5, 2011

India, Saudi Arabia Plan Joint Naval

India and Saudi Arabia are enhancing their strategic partnership to improve defense ties.

The two countries also are sketching out plans to conduct joint naval and military exercises to increase maritime cooperation and sharpen their defensive and offensive capabilities, a top diplomatic source tells Aviation Week.

“The defense ties between Saudi Arabia and India will peak in the coming days with the visit of Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony this month,” the diplomat says. “Several ideas that have been [proposed] at various levels since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Riyadh in 2010 are likely to [be firmed up] during the minister’s visit.”

Antony, who will be making a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia sometime this month, is likely to discuss the possibility of joint naval and military exercises with the oil-rich nation. “We can exchange huge experience. The relationship is strategic enough,” says the diplomat, who didn’t wish to be named.

An Indian defense ministry official declined to divulge details of the minister’s visit to Riyadh.

Over recent years, India’s engagement with Saudia Arabia has been on an upswing owing to a variety of geo-economic, geo-strategic and geo-political factors.

Last week, the Secretary General of the National Security Council of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Prince Bandar Bin Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, called on Prime Minister Singh to express his keen interest in further consolidating relations between the two nations and indicated the desire of the Gulf States to do the same.

The leaders also discussed the possibilities of joint naval war games, according to the diplomat.

India has huge interest in West Asia and the Gulf because nearly six million Indians dwell in the region, which has proved to be a major economic partner and source for energy for India.

Military and naval ties between India and Saudi Arabia have grown in importance as the two sides worked toward developing mutual confidence, highlighting fresh avenues of cooperation in the field of defense.

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