Indian Army Chief Manoj Mukund Narwane will begin his four-day visit to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates today.
This is first ever visit by Indian Army Chief to these countries. General Narwane’s visit is seen as a deepening defense relationship between Saudi and UAE with India. Narwane is reported to be staying in Saudi Arabia and UAE for two days and will meet top military officials of both countries. Army Chief Narwane will also address a program at ‘National Defense University’ in Saudi. Earlier, Indian Foreign Minister S.K. Jaishankar had also paid a three-day visit to Bahrain and the UAE on 24 November, 2020.
Pakistan’s military officials have been visiting Saudi Arabia, but this is the first time that an Indian army chief will visit Saudi Arabia. This will be Narwane’s third foreign trip this year, during which he will meet his counterparts and other senior officials in these countries.
At one time Pakistan used to be very close to Saudi, but now there has been a rift in relations between the two countries regarding Kashmir. Recently, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi threatened the Saudi that if he did not take the lead on Kashmir, he would be forced to call a separate meeting with the Muslim countries standing with him. Angered by this attitude of Pakistan, Saudi had asked Pakistan to return the loan of three billion dollars. After this, Pakistan tried to control damage by sending its army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa to persuade Saudi but this attempt was unsuccessful as neither the King nor the Prince granted him an audience.
New role for India?
It is hoped tour will open the way for the Indian Army to increase defense cooperation with Saudi Arabia, which till now was held up due to Saudi’s close proximity to Pakistan. Significantly, after India, Saudi is the largest buyer of arms in the world, so both countries can cooperate together in the field of defense production. It may be noted that Pakistan’s ex army Chief Rahil Sharif is employed in Saudi Arabia supposedly dealing with Houthi rebels.
The Houthi movement, officially called Ansar Allah and colloquially simply Houthis, is an Islamic political and armed movement that emerged from Sa’dah in northern Yemen in the 1990s. The movement was called Houthis because its founder is from the Houthi tribe. They are supported by Shia Iran to rebel in Yaman.
In an encounter, Rahil Sharif’s battalian miserably failed before Houthis and was forced to surrender, much to the disgrace before the whole world. I wonder if this visit of General Narvane is to seek better military training/coordination with India to better prepare their army to Houthis/Iran. This approach has dramatically expanded defense and security cooperation, especially counter-terrorism activities, in recent years.
About nine million Indian expatriates live in these two West Asian countries. In this way, this visit is being seen as reaching out into the outer part of India’s West Asia. India had also welcomed the normalization of relations between Arab states, saying such steps are taking place in West Asia.
Let’s wait for the final results of the visit.