Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from May 18 to 20 will focus on widening the conversation with the UAE military on defence and security issues. This will include exploring possibilities of Indian defence manufacturers selling military equipment to the UAE.
This will be the first ever formal bilateral visit by a defence minister to the UAE, and follows a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Gulf emirate last year.
Defence ministry sources told The Indian Express that the UAE leadership was very keen on the security component of the bilateral relationship during PM Modi’s visit, and the UAE crown prince, during his recent visit to India, extended a personal invitation to Parrikar. On the crown prince’s suggestion, India agreed to have an air force exercise with the UAE from June 24-28. The Indian Air Force contingent returning from Exercise Red Flag in the US will be participating in the exercise. Ships of the Indian Navy have also been paying regular port calls to the UAE and other countries in the region.
The interaction between the two countries has so far focused on counter-terrorism issues but Parrikar’s visit will focus on widening the security relationship, sources said.
A major reason for India to build a stronger relationship with the UAE is to build an operational rapport with the security and defence structure in that country which is needed to Humanitarian and Disaster Relief Operations (HADR) operations. This is a lesson learnt from Op Rahat, for evacuation of Indians stranded in Yemen last year, where the Indian armed forces have to operate with other militaries in the region. If a similar situation arises in the future, India wants its armed forces to be operate comfortably with other militaries.
Defence ministry sources said that this visit will also include a dialogue on regional security issues between the two countries, where India will try to better understand the recent developments in the region and ways to secure its interests. In a first, India will try to understand the requirement of military equipment of the UAE armed forces and see if Indian defence suppliers are in a position to meet some of the requirements. Export of defence equipment, sources said, is a focus of the Prime Minister and is a major component of this visit.
Besides paying visits to major industrial and military installations in the UAE, Parrikar will also look at hydrographic cooperation and defence industrial cooperation between the two countries. The Indian side is also keen to benefit from the expertise possessed by the UAE in logistics.
Following his visit to the UAE, Parrikar will be travelling to Oman from June 20 to 22. Sources said that Oman is India’s stronger defence partner in the region and Parrikar’s visit will build on the existing relationship.