by Anil Bhat

Aimed at consolidating cooperation between the armed forces of India and Saudi Arabia and explore new avenues of defence cooperation, Chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee and Naval Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, visited Saudi Arabia on from 4-8 February 2018.

In addition to meeting the top military leaders and holding important bilateral discussions, Lanba visited the Naval Operations Centre, Naval Fire and Rescue School and Western Fleet at Jeddah where he was conducted around the operational facilities, which included a visit to HMS Dammam, an Al-Riyadh class frigate. 

Indian Navy cooperates with the Royal Saudi Naval Forces on many fronts, which includes training exchanges, hydrographic cooperation and participation of the Saudi Navy in the annual Admirals’ Cup Sailing Regatta, conducted at the Indian Naval Academy at Ezhimala. Warships from Indian Navy have been regularly visiting ports in Saudi Arabia, with Indian Naval Ships Mumbai, Trishul and Aditya scheduled for port calls at Jeddah from 16-19 May 2017. 

Indian Army and Air Force also maintain healthy cooperation with their Saudi counterpart services. Royal Saudi Armed Forces officers undergo training at various Indian defence training institutes, including National Defence Academy, Defence Services Staff College and National Defence College, while Indian Army and Royal Saudi Army officers have participated as observers in select exercises conducted by both armies.

With centuries old historical linkages between India and Saudi Arabia, ever since the two countries established formal diplomatic relations in 1947, the defence relationship between India and Saudi Arabia has matured over the years. Following both countries signing a Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation in February 2014, the same has progressed through Annual Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation Meetings, the last of which was conducted in New Delhi in November 2017. 

With Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj being the Guest of Honour at the prestigious Al Janadriyah heritage festival just outside Riyadh, relations between the two countries - in the midst of a strategic transformation - are poised to touch even higher levels this year, with visits by the top leadership to each other's country expected in the coming months.