Indian and Saudi navies hold the first-ever bilateral naval exercise in Port Al-Jubail, Saudi Arabia

Published : August 12, 2021 17:59 IST

A team from Indian Navy meeting with counterparts of the Royal Saudi Navy for a co-ordinating conference at King Abdulaziz Naval base in Al-Jubail, Saudi Arabia. Photo: By Special Arrangement

History is being made this week as the operational phase of the first-ever bilateral naval exercise between India and Saudi Arabia gets under way off the King Abdulaziz Naval base in Al-Jubail, Saudi Arabia.

Called “Al-Mohed Al-Hindi 2021”, the exercise comprises several shore and sea-based drills between the navies of the two countries. Representing the Indian Navy is Indian Naval Ship (INS) Kochi, the indigenously designed and built Kolkata-class stealth guided missile destroyer. A flagship warship of India’s Western Naval Fleet, INS Kochi arrived at Port Al-Jubail on August 9.

Beginning with the harbour phase, the Al-Mohed Al-Hindi 2021 exercise witnessed Rear Admiral Ajay Kochhar, Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet (FOCWF), calling on Rear Admiral Majid Al Qahtani, Fleet Commander of the Royal Saudi Navy’s Eastern Fleet, on August 10 at the King Abdul Aziz Naval Base, the headquarters of the Saudi Eastern Fleet. The FOCWF also visited the King Fahd Naval Academy and met with the Commandant, Rear Admiral Faisal Bin Fahd Al Ghufaily. INS Kochi was welcomed into Port Al-Jubail by officials of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces, Border Guards, and officials of the Indian embassy.

On August 11, Rear Admiral Ajay Kochhar, accompanied by Dr Ausaf Sayeed, the Indian Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, called on Saud bin Nayef Al Saud, Governor of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province in Dammam. On August 12, the Indian naval team met with personnel of the Royal Saudi Navy at the King Abdulaziz Naval Base to understand better each other’s operational practices. Lectures by subject matter experts from both navies were also held.

The Indian Embassy in Riyadh has called the visit by INS Kochi to Saudi Arabia and the maiden naval exercises between India and Saudi Arabia as heralding “a new chapter in the bilateral defence ties between the two countries”.

The bilateral naval exercise is certainly a reflection of the growing defence ties between India and many of the Gulf countries, including Saudi Arabia. The Al-Mohed Al-Hindi 2021 comes on the heels of the Indian Chief of the Army Staff General M.M. Naravane’s visit to Saudi Arabia in December 2020. The Indian Army Chief’s visit to Riyadh was the first ever trip by an Indian service chief. On that trip, the Army Chief had also visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The Al-Mohed Al-Hindi 2021 exercise also comes a week after the Indian Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria visited the UAE.

INS Kochi entered Saudi waters after conducting the “Zayed Talwar” drill with the UAE off the coast of Abu Dhabi on August 7. The UAE had fielded a guided missile corvette and a Panther helicopter for the exercise. The two sides carried out tactical manoeuvres, search and rescue operations and an electronic warfare drill to enhance interoperability.

Planning for the maiden Al-Mohed Al-Hindi 2021 exercise began in 2019 and was originally scheduled to be held in 2020. It was, however, postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Warships from India, Australia, Japan and the United States, the four members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, will participate in the Malabar exercise in the Western Pacific later this month.

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