Officials reported that India and Saudi Arabia conducted combined naval exercises in the Arabian Gulf on Tuesday, according to Middle East Eye.
The INS Kochi, an indigenously designed stealth guided-missile destroyer, will conduct “a number of shore and sea-based exercises” with the Saudi navy, according to the Indian embassy in Riyadh.
Vice Admiral Majed al-Qahtani, the commander of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Fleet, told the SPA News agency that the exercise was the first of its type between the Saudi and Indian navies.
The exercises, which will last until later this week, come amid escalating Gulf tensions following the death of a British national and a Romanian citizen in a suspected drone strike on a merchant vessel. The attack on the Mercer Street vessel was blamed on Iran by Israel. The accusations have been refuted by Tehran.
Since taking office in 2014, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pursued an aggressive approach of working with regional countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Israel in order to attract investments and strengthen security ties.
Modi signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kingdom in 2016 to cooperate on intelligence sharing to combat terrorism threats.
According to India’s foreign ministry, about three million Indian expats live in Saudi Arabia, sending home more than $10 billion in remittances each year.
India, which imports around 80% of its oil, is eager to take advantage of current low crude prices by establishing international agreements that would help ensure supply to satisfy rising demand in the country.
Five bilateral agreements between the two countries in the fields of investment, tourism, housing, and information and broadcasting were also signed in 2019.