Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : New Delhi Pursues Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Riyadh

Indian Defense Minister Ajay Bhatt in an interview with Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt (PHOTO CREDIT: Mishaal al-Qadir)
Indian Defense Minister Ajay Bhatt in an interview with Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt (PHOTO CREDIT: Mishaal al-Qadir)
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New Delhi Pursues Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with Riyadh

Indian Defense Minister Ajay Bhatt in an interview with Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt (PHOTO CREDIT: Mishaal al-Qadir)
Indian Defense Minister Ajay Bhatt in an interview with Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt (PHOTO CREDIT: Mishaal al-Qadir)

Indian Defense Minister Ajay Bhatt has expressed India's interest in collaborating with Saudi Arabia on joint defense projects and technology transfers.

Bhatt highlighted the importance of this bilateral defense partnership in the overall strategic relationship between the two countries, stating that it is progressing steadily as part of their defense cooperation efforts.

In an interview with Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt, Bhatt said: “By combining India's 'Make in India' initiative and Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030, we can work together to create joint projects and technology transfer agreements for defense equipment manufacturing.”

“Both nations are also collaborating on new defense technologies,” revealed the minister.

Bhatt, who is heading an Indian delegation to the World Defense Show 2024 in Riyadh, highlighted the cooperation between Indian and Saudi armed forces through the Joint Committee for Defense Cooperation (JCDC).

“Last year, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited India, marking significant improvement in relations,” said the minister.

Bhatt also noted collaboration in new defense technologies between India and Saudi Arabia. He mentioned a recent seminar organized by the Indian Embassy in Riyadh, supported by Saudi agencies.

While the Strategic Partnership Council between India and Saudi Arabia aims for long-term cooperation, Bhatt emphasized a growing partnership in defense.

He anticipated continued collaboration, especially in research and development for advanced defense technologies like ammunition, artificial intelligence, and cybersecurity.

Bhatt acknowledged India’s efforts to strengthen domestic defense production and Saudi Arabia’s focus on localizing industries.

At the World Defense Show, Bhatt had productive meetings with Saudi officials, expressing gratitude for their hospitality. He highlighted the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Munitions India Limited and its local partner.

The minister highlighted that the defense deals signed reflect the ongoing collaboration between Indian and Saudi companies in defense.

Bhatt noted that his visit to the Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) booth at the defense exhibition in Riyadh was fruitful for future cooperation.

Defense Industry Insights

“In line with our strengthening bilateral ties, Indian firms are keen to showcase their defense products in the Saudi market,” remarked Bhatt.

“With trust between us, the Indian government fully backs these efforts. At the World Defense Show, many Indian companies are participating, accessing Saudi Arabia's defense market.”

“During my visit, I saw top-notch Indian products drawing interest. This platform will boost Indian companies’ visibility,” added the minister.

He stressed that the World Defense Show offers ample opportunities for cooperation, including technology transfer and research.

Collaborative Programs

Bhatt mentioned ongoing joint ground forces exercises in India and regular naval exchanges. He highlighted the importance of reciprocal visits in strengthening ties and exploring new cooperation avenues, citing recent high-level exchanges between Indian and Saudi military leaders.

“In early January 2024, Saudi Navy Commander Admiral Fahd bin Abdullah Al-Ghafili visited India for four days. He interacted with top Indian military leaders and government officials,” mentioned Bhatt.

He noted that the visit positively impacted the Saudi Navy Commander’s engagement with Indian defense firms. He got hands-on experience with Indian training institutes in Kochi and visited the indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.

“We also have substantial cooperation in medical fields between our armed forces through specialized exchanges,” added Bhatt.

“We aim to keep up this momentum in bilateral defense ties, exploring new avenues in the future,” he affirmed.

Security in the Red Sea Navigation

Speaking about threats in the Red Sea, Bhatt said: “India stands for freedom of navigation in the Red Sea but is concerned about attacks on commercial ships, which disrupt trade and endanger sailors’ lives.”

“India closely watches developments there and has naval ships in the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea, actively supporting commercial vessels and crew,” he added.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Hamdok Optimistic for Burhan-Hemedti Meeting

Abdullah Hamdok, Sudan’s former Prime Minister and leader of the Sudanese Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (Taqaddum)
Abdullah Hamdok, Sudan’s former Prime Minister and leader of the Sudanese Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (Taqaddum)
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Hamdok Optimistic for Burhan-Hemedti Meeting

Abdullah Hamdok, Sudan’s former Prime Minister and leader of the Sudanese Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (Taqaddum)
Abdullah Hamdok, Sudan’s former Prime Minister and leader of the Sudanese Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (Taqaddum)

Abdalla Hamdok, Sudan’s former Prime Minister and leader of the Sudanese Coordination of Civil Democratic Forces (Taqaddum), is optimistic about a potential meeting between Sudan’s army leader, Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and Rapid Support Forces (RSF) commander Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo “Hemedti.”
Speaking to Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt on the sidelines of a Cairo conference for Sudanese political forces, Hamdok said: “A meeting between the two sides is possible through the African Union’s Presidential Committee led by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.”
Hamdok highlighted that this committee “is a positive step, providing a mechanism to bring the conflicting parties together, which didn’t exist before.”
In late June, the African Peace and Security Council formed a committee led by Museveni to bring together Sudan’s military and RSF leaders promptly. They proposed an urgent African Union summit to address Sudan’s situation.
Hamdok called it a historic step, noting it’s the first mechanism at the presidential level. He hoped the committee could influence both sides and achieve peace.
He praised the recent African Peace and Security Council meeting for showing Africa’s concern for Sudan.
At the Cairo conference for Sudanese political forces, Hamdok highlighted it as a crucial gathering since the crisis began, focusing on ceasefire strategies and a sustainable political resolution.
He emphasized there’s no military solution to Sudan’s conflict and advocated for political negotiations.
The Cairo conference united Sudanese political and civilian forces under the theme “Together for Peace,” addressing ceasefire, humanitarian aid, and a political roadmap.
Hamdok pointed out that Sudan is undergoing the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, with 25 million people inside Sudan facing famine.
“Starvation is claiming more lives than bullets,” said Hamdok, highlighting the urgent need to reach war-affected populations.
The former premier urged action to deliver aid across Sudan’s borders and ensure it reaches those in conflict zones.