This joint committee will also prepare a draft agreement to be endorsed by Riyadh and New Delhi in the field of hydrography, said A.K. Antony, Indian Defense Minister, after holding wide-ranging talks with Minister of Defense Prince Salman.
Antony said: “Prince Salman and myself agreed to establish a joint committee to work out the details of our future defense cooperation, including the details of an agreement in the defense sector.”
He added the two sides were planning to conduct joint exercises involving Saudi and Indian Armed Forces, ship visits from both sides and to work closely to combat sea piracy. ‘There will also be high-level visits from both sides.”
“I had one-to-one talks with Prince Salman first and then we had a detailed delegation-level meeting,” said Antony, adding Prince Salman has agreed to visit New Delhi later this year.
The Indian Defense Minister said an agreement on all issues will be “reached during the visit of Prince Salman to India and I am also hopeful that the agreement on defense cooperation will also be signed at that time.”
He, however, said the specific details of the two agreements would be worked out at diplomatic levels.
The talks were also attended by top Saudi officials, including Prince Khaled bin Sultan, Deputy Minister of Defense.
Indian Ambassador Hamid Ali Rao, Defense Secretary Shashi K. Sharma, Vice Chief of Army Staff S.K. Singh, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Satish Soni and Air Vice Marshal M.R. Pawar attended the meeting from the Indian side. Prince Khaled hosted a luncheon for the visiting Indian Minister at the Conference Palace on Tuesday.
Spelling out details of his meeting with Prince Salman, Antony said Riyadh and New Delhi would work together in the area of hydrography. Potential areas of cooperation in this field include exchange of information, nautical cartography and hydrographic surveys of important coastal areas, ports, harbors and designated sea areas. “We are also examining the possibility of entering into an agreement in this field,” said the Indian Minister, adding there will be substantial expansion in cooperation in the area of training.
Both sides will send their respective Defense Officers so they can get to know each other and to join training programs, he added.
Antony pointed out the two countries have agreed “to explore the possibility of working together in the area of defense production.” To this end, he noted the Defense Officials of Saudi Arabia will visit India and Indian Defense Personnel will also come to the Kingdom to see the defense production facilities for themselves and to map out areas of cooperation in defense production.
India is keen to boost its domestic production of defense equipment and warfare tools. Antony himself introduced the first defense production policy of India last year in a bid to significantly reduce New Delhi's dependence on defense imports, encourage private players and manufacture world class indigenous defense products. Asked about reports that India will be building a mountain warfare training school in Saudi Arabia, Antony said all issues will now be looked into by the joint committee.
Antony, who wrapped up his two-day visit to Riyadh Tuesday evening, said India is working closely with all countries in the Gulf region in a coordinated manner to combat terrorism and for anti-piracy measures.
Source: Arab News