Taking their defence cooperation to an enhanced level, the first meeting of India-Saudi Arabia joint committee on defence cooperation was held in New Delhi on Monday.

Both sides expressed their interest in further enhancing defence exchanges and interactions between their armed forces. Proposals for exchange of high level visits, training exchanges and functional exchanges in various areas were discussed and will be finalised over the coming weeks, a spokesperson of the Defence Ministry said.

The 11-member Saudi Arabian delegation was headed by Major General Suleiman Saleh Al-Khalifa, Chief of the Armed Forces Operations, while the Indian delegation was led by Joint Secretary, Ministry of Defence.

The establishment of the joint committee had been decided during the meeting of the Defence Minister A K Antony with the Saudi Defence Minister (now the Crown Prince) Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud during his first ever visit to Saudi Arabia in February this year. The joint committee was mandated to formulate a programme to develop area of cooperation between the defence establishments of both countries.

The visit of Mr. Antony to Saudi Arabia on February 13-14, 2012 was the first ever visit by an Indian Defence Minister to the Kingdom. The visit aimed at further strengthening the bilateral relationship, the foundation of which was laid by the high level visits by King Abdullah to India in 2006 and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Saudi Arabia in 2010.

According to a commentary by the institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), Mr. Antony’s visit to Riyadh provided a thrust for India’s defence diplomacy in the Gulf region. India has been engaging with other regional countries like Oman, UAE and Qatar by signing defence cooperation agreements and conducting regular exchanges and high level meetings. Though both Saudi Arabia and India are important countries in their respective regions, defence cooperation between the two has not received adequate attention. The 2010 Riyadh Declaration has been termed as ``a new era of strategic partnership’’’ between the two countries.

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