Saudi Army chief’s
first visit to India
will bring both countries
strategically more closer

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NEW DELHI: Saudi Arabia and India have decided to enhance the bilateral defence cooperation in the largest interest of both the countries and their people.

Indian Ministry of Defence regarded this visit a “historic and landmark” first visit to India this week.

Saudi Arabia Land Forces Commander Lieutenant General Fahd Bin Abdullah Mohammed Al-Mutair arrived in India on Monday and ended his three-day trip on Wednesday. The press release noted it was the first-ever visit by a serving Royal Saudi Land Forces Commander to India and marked the “deepening bilateral defence cooperation” between the two countries, adding that it aimed to further bolster cooperation.

NEW DELHI: Lt Gen Al-Mutair was accorded a guard of honour at the South Block lawns before the talks.

The Saudi chief met Indian Army Chief Manoj Mukund Naravane in New Delhi on the second day of his visit and was presented a ceremonial guard of honour.

The two army chiefs later had “significant bilateral discussions” with the Indian general briefing his counterpart on security aspects, the Indian defence ministry said.

The Indian army’s Additional Directorate General of Public Information also said the two “discussed ways to further enhance the bilateral defence cooperation”.

The press release noted that the relationship between India and Saudi Arabia had been growing due to common interests of economic prosperity, eliminating terrorism and mitigating the effects of climate change. “Defence diplomacy forms one of the major tenets of the overall relationship,” it added.

NEW DELHI: Lt Gen Al-Mutair was accorded a guard of honour at the South Block lawns before the talks.

The Saudi army chief said his visit was an “important step” to highlight the importance of military relations and thanked his Indian counterpart for the invitation. It added that he also paid a visit to the Indian National Defence University.

In a historic and landmark visit, the Commander of the Royal Saudi Land Forces, Lieutenant General Fahd Bin Abdullah Mohammed Al-Mutair, arrived in India on 14 February 2022. This is the first ever visit by a serving Royal Saudi Land Forces Commander to India and marks a deepening bilateral defence cooperation between the two countries. General MM Naravane had visited Saudi Arabia in December 2020 in a historic visit which marked the first time that an Indian Army Chief had visited Saudi Arabia. The aim of the visit is to bolster bilateral defence cooperation between the two countries.

NEW DELHI: Indian Army Chief Manoj Mukund Naravane (L) greets Saudi Arabia Land Forces Commander Lieutenant General Fahd Bin Abdullah Mohammed Al-Mutair (R) on his arrival at South Block, New Delhi on Tuesday.

Lieutenant General Fahd Bin Abdullah Mohammed Al-Mutair was received by General MM Naravane, Chief of the Army Staff of Indian Army on 15 February 2022 at South Block where he was accorded a Ceremonial Guard of Honour. He met the COAS for significant bilateral discussions and was briefed on security aspects.

The relationship between India and Saudi Arabia has grown owing to common interests in economic prosperity, eliminating the scourge of terrorism and mitigating the effects of climate change. Defence diplomacy forms one of the major tenets of the overall relationship.

The defence and security ties between India and Saudi Arabia have been on an upswing in the last few years. The Chief of Army Staff visited Saudi Arabia in December 2020 in the first-ever visit by a head of the 1.3 million-strong Army to the strategically important Gulf nation.

Comments by foreign policy experts

Commenting over the visit, Sanjay Kumar writes for Arab News this week’s visit to India by the chief of the Royal Saudi Land Forces was part of a “steady evolution” of strategic ties between the two nations, foreign policy experts said on Wednesday.

NEW DELHI: Indian Army Chief Manoj Mukund Naravane (L) holds a meeting with Saudi Arabia Land Forces Commander Lieutenant General Fahd Bin Abdullah Mohammed Al-Mutair (R) at South Block, New Delhi, on Tuesday.

For decades relations between New Delhi and Riyadh have mostly revolved around energy cooperation. The latest “first ever visit” by a Saudi defense chief to India comes over a year after the head of the Indian army made a trip to Riyadh.

The Indian Ministry of Defense described this week’s visit by Lt. Gen. Fahd bin Abdullah Mohammed Al-Mutair as “historic and landmark,” adding that it marked “deepening bilateral defense cooperation” between the two countries.

Until a few years ago, India’s relationship with Saudi Arabia was driven primarily by trade and the Indian diaspora in the Middle East. The Kingdom is one of the main energy suppliers to India and home to more than 3.5 million Indian expatriates.

Over recent years, there has been some cooperation on security, with Riyadh deporting four wanted fugitives to India. But Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been working to broaden ties, and the two governments have agreed to build a strategic partnership.

Defense relations have seen a notable upswing in the last year with a series of high-level interactions and the first bilateral naval exercise, Al-Mohed Al-Hindi, conducted during August in Jubail. Up until the third quarter of last year, India was the second-largest trade partner of the Kingdom.

Some analysts see Modi’s overtures to Saudi Arabia as being part of a diplomatic effort to put pressure on archrival Pakistan by forging bonds with some of Islamabad’s closest allies.

Foreign policy experts noted that Al-Mutair’s visit was “part of the steady evolution of India’s strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia.”

NEW DELHI: Indian Army Chief Manoj Mukund Naravane presenting Indian Army gift to Saudi Arabia Land Forces Commander Lieutenant General Fahd Bin Abdullah Mohammed Al-Mutair on Tuesday. In the background, a large picture is displayed showing signing of surrender documents of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh in 1971.

“India’s strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia, that began in 2010, was accelerated during the visit of PM Modi to Riyadh and the return of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2019,” Talmiz Ahmad, former Indian ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News. “The defense component of the partnership is very significant because it indicates a meeting of minds of two countries on regional security issues.”

He said that the relationship between the two nations was “not based on a zero-sum approach.”

“Each country has relationships with different countries on the basis of their interests,” Ahmad added. “What is significant is that over the last 20 years Saudi Arabia has steadily given priority to its ties with India as an energy, economic, and strategic partner because their strategic interests are common and both countries are committed to partnering with each other against the problems of extremism.”

Muddassir Quamar of the New Delhi-based think tank, the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, said the visit underlined “growing military-to-military ties.”

“There is a new-found momentum in bilateral ties, and it is reflected in military cooperation among other areas,” Quamar added. “The visit by the Indian defense chief to the Kingdom in 2020 strengthened bilateral security and defense ties.

“A shared vision of bringing economic prosperity, peace, and stability and combating terror has brought the two countries closer.

“In addition to Saudi officers joining training courses in Indian military schools, India and Saudi Arabia are also looking to collaborate in the defense manufacturing sector,” Quamar said. “The visit by Lt. Gen. Fahd bin Abdullah Al-Mutair will further enhance bilateral defense cooperation between New Delhi and Riyadh.”