Army chief Gen. M.M. Naravane will be travelling to Saudi Arabia and the UAE next week, in an unprecedented move that is being seen as a sign of the growing ties between India and countries in the Middle East.
Sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that Gen. Naravane’s visit will be four days long, during which he’ll meet his counterparts and other senior officials in these countries.
The Indian Army chief will also be addressing the Saudi National Defence College.
Sources said this will be the first trip by an Indian Army chief to Saudi Arabia. Naravane’s visit to the UAE will follow close on the heels of one made by External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.
Over the past few years, India’s relations with countries in the Middle East, especially with the UAE and Saudi Arabia, have grown, and Gen. Naravane’s visit is being seen as an extension of that.
The visit comes at a time when Pakistan’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, once its strong ally, has plummeted.
Decades of close economic, political, and military ties between Saudi Arabia and Pakistan had hit a bump in August this year when the South Asian country’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, criticised the West Asian country for failing to call a special meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation on the Kashmir issue.
Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s visit to Saudi Arabia, to ease the diplomatic strain between the countries, ended with him being denied a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Incidentally, Pakistan’s former army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif heads a Saudi Arabia-led Islamic military coalition.
On Tuesday, India had strongly condemned a missile attack that targeted an Aramco oil facility in Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea city of Jeddah last week.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava had said India stands in solidarity with the government and the people of Saudi Arabia against such attacks.