India, Saudi Arabia ties are on the right track as the two countries have agreed to create a joint working group on defense and security. The decision was made during the first meeting of the Committee on Political, Security, Social and Cultural Cooperation (PSSC) on February 3.
The meeting was held under the aegis of the India-Saudi Arabia Agreement for Strategic Partnership Council. The Council was announced during the state visit of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense to India, in February 2019.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement: “Both sides agreed to give impetus to the work of existing mechanisms and establish joint working groups for regular dialogue covering various fields such as political, consular, Haj, defense, security, culture, health, and education.”
The statement said that both sides referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Saudi Arabia in October 2019 and highlighted that “the Strategic Partnership Council reflects the desire of the leadership of both sides to impart further momentum to this important relationship”.
The development has come almost a month after the Indian Army Chief General M.M. Naravane visited Riyadh in a historic first. General Naravane had met top Saudi generals and discussed strengthening defense ties between the two countries and exploring further possibilities for cooperation. He had also received Guard of Honour at headquarters of the Royal Saudi Land Forces during the visit.
Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to India Saud Mohammed Al-Sati told The Economic Times that the decade had witnessed “a remarkable stride in the relations between Saudi Arabia and India”. He termed the announcement of the Strategic Partnership Council as a landmark move.
The ambassador highlighted joint naval exercises conducted by both countries to enhance their maritime security.
India and Saudi Arabia have also signed an agreement on increasing collaboration in military acquisitions, joint research, forming joint ventures, and technology transfers. The deal was signed between the General Authority of Military Industries of Saudi Arabia and the Department of Defense Production of India on the sidelines of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Kingdom in 2019.
N. Ram Prasad, deputy chief of mission at the Indian Embassy in Riyadh, has written in Arab News that there will be enhanced cooperation in the research, development, and manufacturing of weapon systems and equipment.
He underscores that the collaboration in the fields of shipbuilding, ammunition manufacturing, drone technology, cybersecurity, space, and emerging new technologies would come under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plans and the flagship ‘Make in India’ initiative of the Indian government.
The growing closeness between New Delhi and Riyadh has come at a time when differences between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia seem to be growing. Riyadh’s silence on the Kashmir issue after the abrogation of Article 370 is a setback for Islamabad and has repeatedly warned against it.
But since Pakistan relies economically on the Kingdom, its actions were met with retaliation when it sought repayment of a $3-billion loan and put a halt to a $3.2-billion oil credit facility, further straining their ties.