JUBAIL: India and Saudi Arabia have embarked on a well-trodden journey toward enhancing bilateral relations in a variety of different fields, including trade and business, infrastructure development, commerce, medical research, and people-to-people exchanges.
Now the two countries can add defense cooperation and military training to that list, Indian Ambassador Ausaf Sayeed said.
He spoke to reporters while onboard the INS Kochi, a flagship destroyer for the Indian Western Naval Fleet, which is docked in Jubail as part of the first Saudi-India naval exercise.
The harbor phase of the “Al-Mohed Al-Hindi 2021” exercise began on Monday and the sea-based drills started Wednesday. “Defense relations constitute a significant element of our shared strategic vision for the region and this first bilateral naval exercise is a testimony to our strong ties with Saudi Arabia,” Sayeed said.
“The naval exercise will assist in promoting understanding and furthering interoperability between the two navies.”
The arrival of the Indian Navy ship heralds a new chapter in bilateral defense ties, the ambassador said, as India-Saudi bilateral defense engagements have seen a noticeable upswing in the past few months with an increased number of Indian Navy ships visiting Saudi Arabia.
The Indian Western Fleet commander was aboard the ship for the first exercise as the India-Saudi naval training will include a number of sea exercises and maneuvers.
According to Sayeed, Indian naval assets have been increasingly deployed to address the maritime concerns within the region.
Highlighting the Indian Navy’s strengths, he said the country’s navy has assisted countries in the region with hydrographic surveys, search and rescue, and other capacity-building and capability-enhancing activities.
The warship arrived in Saudi Arabia after carrying out a similar naval exercise with the UAE Navy off the coast of Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
While it was docked in Jubail, Sayeed toured the INS Kochi and was briefed on the ongoing naval exercise as well as the capabilities and various tasks undertaken by the warship.
The INS Kochi is one of three Kolkata-class stealth guided-missile destroyers that were constructed for the Indian Navy. It was commissioned on Sept. 30, 2015, and is equipped with sophisticated digital networks along with state-of-the-art weapons and sensors to neutralize any threat from the air, sea, or from underwater.