To provide a boost to their fledgling defence ties, India and Saudi Arabia have agreed to set up a joint committee that will look at ways to enhance bilateral cooperation.
This was agreed to by Saudi Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz and Indian Defence Minister AK Antony during the latter's two-day visit to Riyadh Monday and Tuesday.
The committee will work out the contours of the bilateral relationship in the defence sphere.
Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz met Antony in the presence of his deputy Prince Khalid bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz. This was the first time an Indian Defence Minister was in Saudi Arabia on an official visit.
"To give a boost to the defence ties between the two countries, India and Saudi Arabia have decided to set up a Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation to work out the contours of the relationship. The decision was taken at the delegation level talks between the two countries in Riyadh," Indian defence
ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said.
Antony had Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma, Indian Army vice chief Lt. Gen. S.K. Singh and Indian Navy deputy chief Vice Admiral Satish Soni as part of his delegation to Saudi Arabia.
The proposed joint panel will evolve plans for cooperation in numerous areas of defence cooperation, including high level reciprocal visits at the political, official and the three armed forces levels, ship visits and conducting passage exercises during such port calls.
Among the possibilities thought of at the talks are signing a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in hydrography, increased participation of both sides in training programs, and examine the possibility of cooperation in defence industries.
Antony's suggestion for a Saudi Arabian delegation to visit India to study Indian defence production facilities was agreed to by Prince Salman, as also an invitation from Antony to visit India later this year.
The two sides expressed concern at the spread of piracy in the Indian Ocean region.
India suggested that the navies of the two countries should explore practical cooperation in the fight against piracy and that the Royal Saudi Navy play an active role in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) construct. The Saudi defence minister agreed.
Earlier, Antony had met Saudi King Abdullah Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, who offered to increase its export of crude oil to India. "King Abdullah offered all assistance, including additional supply of crude oil, should India require the same. He expressed eagerness to strengthen relations with India," the spokesperson said.
During the 30-minute meeting, the two leaders also expressed satisfaction over the enhanced cooperation in strategic relations, especially in security, defence, economic and political fields, according Kar, who accompanied the Indian minister.