Cooperation between India and Saudi Arabia in the realms of security and defense continues to increase as these regional powers explore new avenues to cement their growing partnership, with a focus on making the world a safer and more secure place.
Last year we saw a number of high-level bilateral visits and meetings, beginning in February with the first-ever official visit to India by Lt. Gen. Fahd bin Abdullah Mohammed Al-Mutair, commander of Royal Saudi Land Forces. The matters discussed during his visit included a review of ongoing defense cooperation and initiatives. He also visited India’s National Defense College, where he met faculty members and student officers.
The fifth meeting of the Indian-Saudi Joint Committee on Defense Cooperation took place in July in New Delhi. The Saudi delegation, which was led by Ahmed A. Aseeri, the deputy minister of defense for strategic affairs, also met representatives of Indian defense companies at the offices of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Goodwill visits by Indian ships have been a major component of recent defense cooperation, with seven Indian Navy and Coast Guard vessels arriving at Saudi ports in 2022. The visit of ships belonging to India’s First Training Squadron to Jeddah, along with the three-masted sail training ship “Tarangini,” were important milestones in Naval cooperation.
The Royal Saudi Naval Forces participated in Milan 2022, an Indian multinational naval exercise, in February and March, at the Admiral’s Cup regatta in December, and in a number of seminars and workshops. Meanwhile, officers from Royal Saudi Armed Forces and Indian Armed Forces are undergoing training at various military institutes.
This year, we expect further exchanges and training activities involving forces from the two friendly countries. Areas for new or expanded military cooperation are being mutually identified, including intelligence sharing, counterterrorism, artificial intelligence, electronic warfare, and cybersecurity.
Efforts were made last year to introduce the Indian defense industry to Saudi Arabia under the auspices of the Indian government’s “Make in India” initiative and Saudi Vision 2030. In March, 10 Indian companies took part in the World Defense Show in Riyadh. Meanwhile, an eight-member Saudi delegation made the trip to India for Defense Expo 2022 at Gandhinagar in October.
In addition, high-level bilateral discussions took place about cybersecurity and intelligence sharing, and Indian experts shared their views and expertise with participating agencies at the Global Cybersecurity Forum in Riyadh in November.
As India celebrates 75 years of diplomatic relations with the Kingdom, security and defense remains a key pillar of bilateral relations. King Salman provided a major impetus for bilateral defense relations in 2014, while he was crown prince and defense minister, when he elevated collaboration to a new level by signing the Memorandum of Defense Cooperation. His vision for such cooperation in this realm has subsequently benefited from numerous positive initiatives under his guidance and the direction of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
India and Saudi Arabia are now natural defense partners, given their roles as major regional players and their shared security concerns. We are confident that this relationship will continue to grow.
- N. Ram Prasad is deputy chief of mission at the Indian Embassy in Riyadh.