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Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane began his six-day visit to, on Tuesday to United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia against the backdrop of the Bahrain, UAE and Sudan normalizing relations with Israel.
Also, it is a time when the ties of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have hit a stumbling block.
The Army chief travelled to Nepal for a three-day trip last month to discuss diplomatic concerns. He also travelled to Myanmar in October with Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla.
This is for the first time that an Indian Army Chief is making a visit to these two countries. “The visit is historic in the sense that it will be the first time an Indian Army Chief is visiting the UAE and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the Indian Army said. Clearly, these developments point to the significance that the tour wraps within it.
According to a statement given by Indian Army “General MM Naravane, the Chief of Army Staff has proceeded on a visit to the United Arab Emirates(UAE) and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from December 9 to 14”.
The visit is the manifestation of the improved and developing relations between India and the Middle East. India over the past few has to build stronger ties with Gulf Nations.
Through joint exercises, military training and intelligence, the relations are burgeoning wholesomely. Though some events on religious and political grounds have unsettled the world in the past few years and some even recently, India is striding to bolden and uphold association with countries across the world. Hence it will be interesting to see how the tour turns out!
Tracking the tour
Indian Army Chief Gen Naravane will first pay the visit to the UAE. Then later he will be ending his tour in Saudi Arabia on December 13 and 14.
He is expected to hold meetings with civilian and military leaders of the two countries. The discussions are assumingly to be centred at bolstering of military and defence ties.
“He will take forward the excellent defence cooperation between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and India through multiple meetings with senior functionaries of the security establishment and exchange views on various defence-related issues,” the Army said.
Gen Naravane is scheduled to visit headquarters of the Royal Saudi Land Force, the Joint Forces Command and King Abdulaziz Military Academy in Saudi Arabia. He will be addressing the students and faculty of the National Defense Academy there.
How India is suppose to benefit out of the visit?
The driving motive of the tour is building robust military ties with the two countries.
NK Bhatia, an Indian Army Veteran, told Financial Express Online “The upcoming visit of Indian Chief of Army Staff, General Naravane to Saudi Arabia and UAE indicates a titanic shift in security dynamics and geopolitical equations between India and the Middle East in the backdrop of changing dynamics in the Islamic world”.
India-UAE is expected to direct their talks in the direction of defence production. Clearly, both the countries are top the list of defence imports. Hence they can have a round table on building indigenous capabilities in defence production.
Although both the countries are already in talks for a possible supply of carbines to the Indian Army through Make in India route, the tour can open many other areas upon which the two can collaborate.
In the second phase of the tour with destination Saudi Arab, the Army said that its chief will take forward the “excellent defence cooperation between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and India through multiple meetings with senior functionaries of the security establishment and exchange views on various defence-related issues”.
Saudi Arabia is India’s fourth-largest trade partner and India imports about 18% of crude oil from here. The tour can pave a route to deeper ties on military and defence grounds.
Also the two can exchange words on production of defence equipment.
In recent years, major wholesome developments in relations between these countries have taken place. Though India has endeavoured to solidify their ties with a strong foundation, these tours shall make them impregnable.
The current disruptions across the world have cost many countries reliable relations with each other. However, in such a scenario, India is wading through them. Also, it wants to ensure stronger hold to the thread from both the ends.
Be it on trade grounds or defence, loose ends are not affordable and can be disastrous especially in current settings.
Former Ambassador Amb Anil Trigunayat says “The training and exchanges between the forces of the two have become frequent, and the joint exercises and goodwill visits between the three wings of the militaries have taken place.”
Hopefully, the tour will help India achieve what it aims for. Though our relations have been amicable but making them resistant and resilient is what we shall aim for.