The world's biggest arms importer, Saudi Arabia, has forged closer defence and aerospace ties with India, following the signining of an agreement between Power For Defense Technologies (PDTC), a Saudi Arabian company, and Navratana Defense PSU Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) India.
The agreement will see BEL and PDTC collectively bring cutting-edge technologies and technological solutions to the king's defence ecosystem. Based on its ambitious Vision 2030 goals, KSA, which increased its arms imports by 60% from 2016 to 2020, aims to manufacture 50% of its defence and security equipment needs within the kingdom.
Power for Defense Technologies was founded by Sheikh Mohammed Mustfa-Zaini Al-Shaibi, a member of the Al Shaibi family in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), with a vision to foster deeper and better business, technological and cultural relationships between the kingdom and India through the promotion, transfer and deployment of cutting-edge autonomous technological solutions in the defense, aerospace and security sectors.
In the past Saudi Arabia has bought autonomous systems such as unmanned aerial vehicles from China, which it reportedly used in its long running battle against Houthi rebels in Yemen. In 2017, China reportedly inked a deal to manufacture military drones in the kingdom. One of the biggest arms exporters to Saudi Arabia, the US, is reluctant to sell armed drones to the kingdom. However, according to recent media reports, the US Department of Defense is said to favour the sale of more than $500 million worth of armed Reaper drones to Qatar, which could anger US allies in the region, including Saudi Arabia.
Sheikh Mohammed Mustfa-Zaini Al-Shaibi said, BEL is at the forefront of technology innovation in India. “The partnership with BEL will enable us to bring critical technologies for civilian and defense application to KSA.”
He described Saudi Arabia and India as rising powers and key players in their respective regions and natural partners in addressing the various challenges confronting the region.
Anil Pant, general manager for international marketing at BEL, which provides coastal radar systems,and advanced threat detection suites for drone protection, said it foresees many such technological partnerships in the near future between KSA and India. “This agreement will further cement the existing bilateral ties between the two countries elevating the relationship to a strategic partnership,” he said.
The agreement was facilitated by Gopi Krishna Reddy and Hisham Khalid, advisors to Power for Defence Technologies. Syed Wahab Quadri and Jagatheesh Kumar Bagulayan from the management of PDTC will lead the initiative with BEL.