Army chief to visit Saudi Arabia, UAE from Sunday
Indian Army chief General MM Naravane is set to make a four-day visit to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from December 6. This is his third foreign trip this year with diplomatic overtones, people familiar with developments said on Thursday.
Naravane will spend two days each in both West Asian countries, home to a majority of the nine million Indian expatriates in the region, and hold meetings with the senior military and civilian leadership, the people cited above said on condition of anonymity.
The visits are being seen as part of the Indian government’s outreach to West Asia, which is seen by New Delhi as part of its extended neighbourhood, and come close on the heels of external affairs minister Jaishankar’s visit to Bahrain and the UAE during November 24-26. This outreach has dramatically expanded defence and security cooperation, especially counter-terrorism, in recent years.
Naravane is set to travel first to Saudi Arabia, where his engagements will include an address at the National Defence University, the people said. He will then travel to the UAE, whose defence ties with India have been expanded in recent years, the people added.
Details of the trips were being kept tightly under wraps by all the three countries though the visits were confirmed by diplomats and other officials in New Delhi and Riyadh.
Former Indian foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal described the visits as “very significant” in a tweet.
“Apart from deepening bilateral ties in sensitive area, signals loosening of [Saudi Arabia-UAE] ties with Pak. With Raheel Sharif employed by SA to head Islamic counterterrorism coalition, inviting Naravane sends piquant message,” he said, referring to the former Pakistan Army chief who currently heads the Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition, an alliance of 39 Muslim countries with headquarters in Riyadh.
In October, Naravane accompanied foreign secretary Harsh Shringla on a visit to Myanmar, where they held talks with the senior leadership, including Aung San Suu Kyi and Senior Gen Min Aung Hlaing, on security and development cooperation.
Last month, Naravane travelled to Nepal for a visit that was seen as preparing the grounds for Shringla’s subsequent trip, with both engagements helping nudge bilateral ties towards normalcy after a border row over a new political map issued by Kathmandu that included Indian territories.
The visits also come at a time when Pakistan’s ties with both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are strained. Angered by Islamabad’s criticism of Riyadh’s position on the Kashmir issue, Saudi Arabia recently sought the early repayment of a $3-billion loan provided to the Imran Khan government in 2018.
After being rebuffed by the Saudi leadership on the Kashmir issue, Prime Minister Imran Khan had made an unsuccessful attempt to forge a new grouping of Islamic countries with Turkey and Malaysia – a move that further irked Riyadh.
Enter your email to get our daily newsletter in your inbox
- Union minister for culture and tourism Prahlad Patel said government is addressing the lack of adventure sports equipment in Kargil.
- In contrast to the violence seen in the Capital, farmers held peaceful rallies across the country to protest against the farm laws.
- India put on display its war machines at a time when the country is locked in a tense border stand-off with China.
- The chaos and violence have raised questions about the future of the two-month-long agitation of farm unions.
- Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in a letter sent to her Indian counterpart, conveyed her greetings.
- Tuesday's decision to operate all trains comes a day after a meeting to resume local train services for all passengers was chaired by Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.
- Khattar said that unsavoury events on Tuesday deserved to be condemned in the strongest words.
- Governor RN Ravi said 'politics by gun' has stonewalled efforts to resolve the Naga political issue.
- No details were shared about the meeting, although a functionary said the party sees similarities in Tuesday’s protests with last year's anti-CAA agitation.
- Putting the onus of Tuesday's events on the government and questioning it for not accepting the farmers demands, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said it was not right on the government's part to create a facade of talks and neither conceding to their demands nor proposing any solution.