India army chief holds historic talks in Saudi to enhance defence ties

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India’s top General Manoj Mukund Naravane held historic talks with his Saudi counterparts yesterday as part of the second leg of his two-nation visit to strategically important Gulf countries, including neighbouring UAE.

Naravane becomes the first ever head of the Indian military to visit both countries while their traditional ally Pakistan and rival to India has seen its relations strained in recent months, particularly over Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s muted stance on the contentious issue of Kashmir. However India has gradually been developing stronger defence ties with Gulf countries through joint exercises, military training and intelligence-sharing.

In a statement, the Indian army said that its chief will assume the “excellent defence cooperation between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and India through multiple meetings with senior functionaries of security establishment and exchange views on various defence related issues.”

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During the first day of his visit on Sunday, General Naravane met senior Saudi military officials including Commander of the Royal Saudi Land Forces, General Fahd Bin Abdullah Mohammed Al-Mutir, Chief of General Staff General Fayyadh Bin Hamid Al-Ruwaili and Commander of the Joint Forces Lieutenant General Mutlaq Bin Salim. He was also presented with a Guard of Honour at the headquarters of the Royal Saudi Land Forces.

Yesterday he visited the King Abdul Aziz Military Academy where he discussed views on military training. He also addressed student officers attending the War Course at the Saudi Armed Forces Command and Staff College and National Defence University.

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Gulf countries Qatar, the UAE and Saudi have previously expressed interest in acquiring the joint Indian-Russian produced BrahMos cruise missile.

Following Riyadh’s “snub” of Pakistan’s top army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa during his visit in August in an effort to restore relations, Pakistan has focussed on strengthening its pre-existing ties with China who has reportedly agreed to bail Pakistan out by helping to repay its $2 billion debt to Saudi Arabia.

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Middle East Monitor

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