By focusing on stronger military ties with the UAE and Saudi Arabia – both key global suppliers of hydrocarbons – India hopes to maintain robust diplomatic relations while ensuring coordination in the event of security concerns in crucial sea lanes.
“The naval exercises conducted by the Indian Navy with the navies of the UAE and Saudi Arabia underline a broader outreach effort by India with nations in the Middle East,” Daniel Darling, Senior Military Markets Analyst, Europe & Asia/Pacific Rim, Forecast International Inc., says.
According to the US based expert, “The naval exercises ultimately serve as diplomacy by other means, amounting to “showing the flag” and tightening military-to-military relations. Such exercises may also lead to potential sales of defense materiel to two significant importers of military hardware.”
“Rather than cede influence across the region to China, India is undertaking a diplomatic engagement campaign with regional countries of disparate backgrounds and interests, be they Israel, Iran, or the aforementioned Gulf nations,” he opines.
“It is important to note that the shipping lane stretching from the Persian Gulf into the Arabian Sea and across the Indian Ocean represents the crucial transport lifeline for about 60 percent of Chinese oil and over 70 percent of India’s,” Mr Darling says.
Showcasing its presence in the Persian Gulf region also serves as a reminder to China that the Indian Navy’s charge of projecting power across the Indian Ocean Region is not subsiding.
“Cooperation with other nation’s militaries bolsters the Indian armed forces’ out-of-theater sustainability (through potential agreements regarding usage of ports and refueling capabilities, for example), relations with potential security partners, and strategic depth with which to check China’s advances in the Gulf,” he concludes.
Ex ‘Al -Mohed Al-Hindi’ (Indian Navy and Royal Saudi Naval Force)
Ambassador of India to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Dr Ausaf Sayeed, accompanied by the Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet (FOCWF), Rear Adm Ajay Kochhar had visited INS Kochi at Al Jubail ahead of the exercises.
On August 12, 2021, the sea phase of the first ever bilateral exercise ‘Al – Mohed Al – Hindi’ between the navies of India and Royal Saudi Naval Force started off the coast of Al Jubail.
While the Indian Navy has deployed it’s indigenously built stealth destroyer Kochi with two Sea King helicopters MK 42B helicopters on board and the Royal Saudi Navy has sent in a missile corvette Badr with two FACs.
Focus of the first ever naval exercise
Anti-piracy, asymmetric threat, replenishment at sea procedures, and boarding operations were the focus of the drill on day one.
Both navies are also in collaborative and complex exercises as well as targeting drills to further enhance interoperability and synergy between the navies of the two countries.
Zayed Talwar 2021 (India – UAE Navy Bilateral Exercise)
This took place off the coast of Abu Dhabi on August 7, 2021, indigenously built INS Kochi, two Sea King MK 42B helicopters, which is presently deployed in the Persian Gulf, participated in the drill. And from the UAE side — Baynunah class guided missile corvette UAES AL – Dhafra, and one AS – 565B Panther helicopter were sent to participate in the drill.
The focus of the exercises was on the Search and Rescue, Electronic Warfare, Tactical manoeuvres, and Over the Horizon Targeting, to strengthen the interoperability and synergy between the two navies.
All through the exercise, according to the Indian Navy helicopters were extensively used.