India, Saudi Arabia begin first naval exercise
A frontline Indian warship is currently participating in the first naval exercise with Saudi Arabia, reflecting the growing defence ties between the two sides in the wake of the Indian Army chief’s first visit to the West Asian country last year.
INS Kochi, the flagship destroyer of the Indian Western Naval Fleet, arrived at Port Al-Jubail on Monday for the “Al-Mohed Al-Hindi 2021” exercise. The warship sailed to Saudi Arabia after conducting the “Zayed Talwar” drill with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) off the coast of Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
India’s defence and military ties with Saudi Arabia received a major boost with Indian Army chief Gen MM Naravane’s visit to Riyadh – the first such trip by an Indian service chief – last December. Naravane had also visited the UAE on the same tour.
The Al-Mohed Al-Hindi exercise began with the harbour phase on Monday, and the Indian embassy said the drill “heralds a new chapter in the bilateral defence ties”. INS Kochi was welcomed at the port by officials of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces, Border Guards and the Indian embassy.
Al-Mohed Al-Hindi comprises a number of shore and sea-based drills between the two navies. During its stay at Jubail port, the Indian warship will follow all Covid-19 protocols laid down by Saudi authorities.
Planning by India and Saudi Arabia for their first naval exercise had begun in 2019 but the move was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Indian Navy held a few minor exercises amid the pandemic but plans for larger drills were recently revived. Warships from India, Australia, Japan and the US – the four members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad – will participate in the Malabar exercise in the Western Pacific later this month.
The Indian Navy’s exercises with the UAE and Saudi Arabia are being held against the backdrop of growing tensions in the Persian Gulf following a drone attack on the tanker MV Mercer Street off Oman that killed a Briton and a Romanian citizen.
The UAE fielded a guided missile corvette and a Panther helicopter for the exercise with INS Kochi. The two sides carried out tactical manoeuvres, search and rescue operations, and an electronic warfare drill to enhance interoperability.
The exercise came a week after the Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, visited the UAE.
The visit of INS Kochi, an indigenously designed and built Kolkata-class stealth guided missile destroyer, also gives India an opportunity to display its ship-building capabilities in West Asia. The warship incorporates new design concepts for stealth and has a large component of indigenous combat suites.
It is equipped with sophisticated digital networks, and a unique feature of the warship is the high level of indigenisation, with most systems sourced from within India. Some of the major indigenised systems on INS Kochi include the electronic warfare suite and the ship’s stabilisers.