India to conduct first-ever naval combat exercise with Saudi Arabia

NEW DELHI: As part of the continuing upward trajectory in military ties with the Gulf countries, India is now all set to conduct its first-ever naval exercise with Saudi Arabia called “Al Mohed Al Hind”.

Guided-missile destroyer INS Kochi, with its two integral Sea King-42B helicopters, arrived at Port Al Jubai on Monday during its Persian Gulf deployment. Flag officer commanding India’s western fleet, Rear Admiral Ajay Kochhar, held discussions with Saudi Eastern Fleet commander, Rear Admiral Majid Al Qahtani, on Tuesday ahead of the exercise.

INS Kochi last week had conducted an exercise with the UAE Navy, “Zayed Talwar”, off the coast of Abu Dhabi. UAE had deployed a Baynunah-class guided-missile corvette, along with helicopters, for the exercise on August 7, which included tactical manoeuvres, over-the-horizon targeting and electronic warfare operations.

The exercises come shortly after IAF chief Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria visited UAE and Israel earlier this month to bolster bilateral military ties with the two countries. The UAE, incidentally, has taken the lead among the Gulf countries in “normalizing” ties with Israel, a country with which India also has robust defence cooperation.

The policy to expand military ties with the Gulf countries also saw Army chief General M M Naravane tour UAE and Saudi Arabia, in the first-ever such visit by an Indian Army chief, in December last year.

In March this year, the IAF had taken part with Sukhoi-30MKI fighters and C-17 Globemaster-III aircraft in a major multi-nation air combat exercise called “Desert Flag ” in the UAE. Air forces from the US, France, South Korea, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain also took part in the exercise.

The UAE Air Force, incidentally, has been providing support through its Airbus MRTT refuelling aircraft to IAF’s new Rafale fighters on their over 7,000-km flight to India from France.

India is also in discussions to export BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles, which have a strike range of 290-km, and the Akash air defence missiles, which have an interception range of 25-km, to the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Both the countries are also keen on joint defence production ventures with India.

Source: Times of India


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