NEW DELHI: Indian Army chief Manoj Mukund Naravane on Sunday embarked on a four-day visit to the UK and Italy to deepen bilateral ties with the two key European countries.

In a statement, the Indian army said Naravane will be meeting his counterparts and senior military leaders of the two countries to explore ways to boost military cooperation.

On the first leg of his visit, Naravane will hold talks with the UK's secretary of state for defence, chief of defence staff, chief of general staff and other dignitaries, the Army said. He will also be visiting various army formations where he will exchange ideas on issues of mutual interest, the Indian army said in the statement.

The visit comes at a time when India and the UK are looking to refashion ties, especially after the latter’s exit from the European Union. During a summit between the prime ministers of the two countries in May, India and the UK unveiled a decade-long roadmap to guide cooperation. Defence and security ties were highlighted as one of five key pillars to elevate the relationship to a “comprehensive strategic partnership".

Earlier this year, the UK announced that its carrier strike group (CSG) led by the warship HMS Queen Elizabeth will undertake a “global deployment" and visit many countries including India, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore. The deployment is seen as reinforcing UK’s new tilt towards the Indo-Pacific region. It provides the basis for a convergence of interests with India, which has been reaching out to foreign naval forces, as a potential ‘counterweight’ to China.

On the second leg of his visit, Naravane will be in Italy from 7-8 July, the statement said. “The army chief will be holding important discussions with the chief of defence staff and chief of staff of the Italian Army," it said.

"Additionally, the chief of army staff will also inaugurate the Indian Army Memorial in the famous town of Cassino and will be briefed at the Italian Army's Counter IED Centre of Excellence at Cecchingola, Rome," it added.