First Meeting of India-Saudi Arabia Joint Committee on Defence Co-Operation

The first meeting of the India-Saudi Arabia Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation was held in New Delhi on 10SEP12. According to the Ministry of Defense (MoD) press release, the 11-member Saudi delegation was headed by Maj Gen Suleiman Saleh Al-Khalifa, Chief of the Armed Forces Operations of Saudi Arabia while the Indian delegation was headed by the Joint Secretary, MoD.

The establishment of the Joint Committee was decided during the February 2012 meeting of the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony with the Saudi Defence Minister (and now also Crown Prince) Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, during Antony’s visit to the Kingdom. [1] The Joint Committee was mandated to formulate a programme to develop areas of cooperation between the defence establishments of both countries. 

As further indicated by the release:

During the meeting both sides expressed their interest in further enhancing defence exchanges and interactions between their armed forces. Proposals for exchange of high level visits, training exchanges and functional exchanges in various areas were discussed and will be finalized over the coming weeks.

India-Saudi relations have been on the rise since 2006 after King Abdullah visited New Delhi. In 2010, the two nations signed several pacts, including agreements on energy, counterterrorism, narcotics, money laundering and extradition. A possible interpretation of that specific meeting with specific emphasis on the Pakistan angle of the relationship is observed in Stratfor’s report from 01MAR10:

[1] Antony’s visit in February 2012 whose agenda was focused on defense cooperation also gave the US the opportunity to make a play through Saudi Arabia with the Saudi’s offer to supply additional crude in lieu of sanctions. (According to multiple sources of reporting, the US had been working behind the scenes to see if SA could cover the removal of Iranian crude from the market)

It was reported in the Times of India that India’s Hindustan Petroleum Corp (HPCL.NS) reduced the size of annual trade with Iran to 60,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2012/13 versus 70,000 bpd and almost doubled imports from Saudi Arabia. Another Indian refinery Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL.NS) had also reportedly doubled its annual crude import deal with the Kingdom. [TOI 14FEB12]

According to a CRS report, India has reduced the import of Iranian oil by volume from 16% in 2008 to 10% in 2012.



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