KUWAIT: India is looking to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Kuwait to further strengthen defense cooperation between the two countries, said Indian Ambassador Sunil Jain on Thursday. He was talking to the Kuwait media onboard visiting Indian naval ship INS Delhi, accompanied by Rear Admiral Ravneet Singh NM, flag officer commanding of India’s Western Naval Fleet. Three Indian naval ships – INS Delhi, INS Tarkash and INS Deepak – arrived at Shuwaikh Port on Thursday on a three-day goodwill visit. Captain of INS Delhi Capt Sandeep Singh Sandhu, captain of INS Tarkash Capt Pradeep Singh, captain of INS Deepak Capt Sujit Kumar Chhetri and India’s defense attache, the Gulf region, Capt Gurpal Singh, were also present at the press conference.

Jain, Ravneet Singh and captains of the three ships called on Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Sheikh Khalid Jarrah Al-Sabah on Thursday morning. Chief of General Staff and Deputy Chief of General Staff of Kuwait Armed Forces and Commander of Kuwait naval forces were also present during the meeting. “We discussed various issues involving bilateral cooperation including the possibility of signing an MoU to further expand defense cooperation. This proposed MoU could serve as an umbrella suiting the interests of both countries. India and Kuwait are also members of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS),” the ambassador added. IONS is a voluntary initiative that seeks to increase maritime cooperation among navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean region. Currently, 35 countries are members of IONS.

Bridges of friendship
“We, in the Indian navy, build bridges of friendship over oceans. We visit friendly countries, make friends, learn from their experience and go back,” Ravneet Singh said, elaborating on the purpose of the visit of the three naval ships, which is by far the largest Indian naval contingent visiting Kuwait. “In IONS, we are all like-minded people who meet together, discuss problems and chart out our way. We learn from each other’s strengths, try to share our experiences and make up for our weaknesses. It is a combined effort, and as we understand, there are problems such as natural disasters and terrorism. If we work together, we can fight and defeat them,” he said.

During the stay, the crew of Indian naval ships will hold professional interactions with the Kuwaiti naval force pertaining to nuances of maritime operations, including means of combating maritime terrorism and piracy. In addition, the officers will call on senior Kuwaiti government and military authorities to bolster cooperation and strengthen mutual understanding between the two navies.

“We want to enhance our friendship with the navy of Kuwait, taking our relationship to the next level, learn some good things from the navy of Kuwait and share our experiences with them. When we sail out, we will hold joint exercises,” said Rear Admiral Singh.

Incidents of piracy
“Incidents of piracy have come down significantly in the last few months, thanks to the joint patrolling of the navies together,” he added. IONS has declared that the Indian Ocean region is free of piracy as it has been now contained only to the Gulf of Aden. Talking about the massive evacuation called ‘Operation Rahat’ from war-torn Yemen in last April, Captain Pradeep of INS Tarkash, said: “In one of the largest evacuation missions, three Indian ships rescued nearly 7,000 people from 31 countries.”

Commissioned in Nov 1997, INS Delhi was the first ship designed in India itself, with 6,700-ton guided missile destroyers. It is a multipurpose command and control platform capable of operating in a multi-threat environment. It carries two Sea King helicopters, capable of both anti-submarine as well as anti-surface operations.

INS Deepak was commissioned in Jan 2011 and it is a modern fleet tanker designed to be utilized as a fleet support ship. It has adequate facility for providing frontline support to fleet ships and has an advanced Integrated Platform Management System which seamlessly integrates auxiliaries and battle damage management of the ship using microprocessor-based digital control systems.

Commissioned in Nov 2012, INS Tarkash remains one of the latest platforms for the Indian navy and is a workhorse of the Western Fleet. Its weapon package includes surface-to-surface missiles, surface-to-air missiles, advanced torpedo launchers, anti-missile defense system and 100mm guns. It is thus capable of accomplishing a wide variety of naval missions, primarily finding and eliminating enemy submarines and large surface ships.

The last goodwill call by the Indian navy was in Sept 2015 when INS Deepak and INS Tabar visited Kuwait. Recently, on an invitation from the Indian side, an official from Kuwait’s ministry of defense joined the 72nd Course of Defense Services Staff College in Wellington, India. The Indian ships sailed off from India on May 3. After leaving Kuwait tomorrow, the vessels will call on ports at Bahrain and Muscat before returning to Mumbai on May 27.

By Sajeev K Peter