Indian Army chief General M M Naravane on Sunday met top Saudi generals and discussed issues of common interest and ways to enhance bilateral defence cooperation during his historic visit to the Gulf Kingdom. Gen Naravane, who arrived in Saudi Arabia on the second leg of his two-nation visit that included the United Arab Emirates, is the first-ever head of the Indian Army to travel to the two strategically important Gulf countries.
"COAS discussed issues of bilateral defence cooperation with General Fahd Bin Abdullah Mohammed Al-Mutir, Commander Royal Saudi Land Forces," the Indian Army's Additional Directorate General of Public Information said in a tweet on Sunday. He also received a Guard of Honour at headquarters of the Royal Saudi Land Forces. Gen Naravane also called on Chief of General Staff Gen. Fayyadh bin Hamid Al-Ruwaili and discussed issues of mutual interest and defence cooperation, it said in another tweet.
"During the meeting, they discussed issues of common interest in addition to means of enhancing bilateral cooperation," state-run Saudi Press agency reported Gen Naravane also interacted with Lt Gen Mutlaq bin Salim bin Al-Azima, the Commander of the Joint Forces of Saudi Arabia, and exchanged views on defence cooperation, the Indian Army said in a tweet.
Gen Naravane earlier visited the UAE where he discussed bilateral defence cooperation and issues of mutual interest with the UAE's Commander of the Land Forces Major General Saleh Mohammed Saleh Al Ameri. His visit is seen as a reflection of India's growing strategic ties with the two countries and is expected to further open up new avenues for cooperation in the defence and security sphere.
Gen Naravane's visit comes in the midst of fast-paced developments in the Gulf region including normalisation of Israel's relations with several Arab countries as well as situation arising out of the assassination of Iran's top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Ahead of his visit to the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the Army said in a statement in New Delhi that "During the visit, he will be meeting his counterparts and senior military leadership of these 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."
Gen. Naravane's visit to the Gulf region comes days after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar's trips to Bahrain and the UAE during which he called on top leaders of the two countries. In the last few years, India's ties with Saudi Arabia and the UAE have witnessed a major upswing. Last month, the Army chief travelled to Nepal on a three-day visit that had significant diplomatic overtone.
In October, Gen. Naravane travelled to Myanmar along with Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on a very crucial visit during which India decided to supply an attack submarine to the Myanmar Navy besides agreeing to further deepen military and defence ties.