An Indian frontline warship is currently participating in the first naval exercise with Saudi Arabia, reflecting the growing defense ties between the two sides following the Indian army chief’s first visit to the west Asian country last year.
INS Kochi, the flagship destroyer of the Indian West Navy fleet, arrived in Port Al-Jubail on Monday for exercise “Al-Mohed Al-Hindi 2021”. The warship sailed for Saudi Arabia after conducting the “Zayed Talwar” exercise with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) off the coast of Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
India’s defense and military relations with Saudi Arabia were boosted significantly by the visit of the Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane to Riyadh – the first trip by an Indian service chief – last December. Naravane had also visited the UAE on the same tour.
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Exercise Al-Mohed Al-Hindi began the port phase on Monday, and the Indian embassy said the exercise “opens a new chapter in bilateral defense relations”. INS Kochi was greeted at the port by officials from the Royal Saudi Naval Forces, Border Guard and the Indian Embassy.
Al-Mohed Al-Hindi includes a series of coastal and sea exercises between the two navies. During its stay in the port of Jubail, the Indian warship will follow all Covid-19 protocols established by the Saudi authorities.
India and Saudi Arabia’s planning for their first naval exercise had started in 2019, but the move was hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic. The Indian Navy held some minor drills amid the pandemic, but plans for major drills have recently been revived. Warships from India, Australia, Japan and the United States – the four members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad – will take part in the Malabar exercise in the Western Pacific later this month.
The Indian Navy exercises with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia take place amid mounting tensions in the Persian Gulf following a drone strike on the MV Mercer Street tanker off Oman, in which a British citizen and a Romanian citizen were killed.
The United Arab Emirates used a guided missile corvette and a Panther helicopter for the exercise with INS Kochi. The two sides conducted tactical maneuvers, search and rescue operations, and an electronic warfare exercise to improve interoperability.
The exercise took place a week after the Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria visited the United Arab Emirates.
The visit of INS Kochi, a Kolkata-class indigenous stealth guided missile destroyer, also gives India an opportunity to demonstrate its shipbuilding skills in West Asia. The warship incorporates new design concepts for stealth and has a large proportion of indigenous combat suites.
It is equipped with sophisticated digital networks and a unique feature of the warship is the high degree of indigenization, with most of the systems originating from India. Some of the main indigenous systems on INS Kochi include electronic warfare and the ship’s stabilizers.