NEW DELHI: Defence Minister A.K. Antony left Monday on a two-day visit to Saudi Arabia, the first by an Indian defence minister to the Gulf nation with whom India is developing a strategic partnership.
"This is the first time an Indian defence minister is visiting Saudi Arabia. It is an important step in strengthening our bilateral ties," Antony told reporters on the sidelines of the Asian Security Conference before leaving for the airport.
Antony is accompanied by a high-level delegation, including Defence Secretary Shashi Kant Sharma, Indian Army vice chief Lt. Gen. S.K. Singh and Indian Navy deputy chief Vice Admiral Satish Soni.
In Riyadh, Antony will hold discussions with his counterpart Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, besides meeting other leaders.
"Current defence cooperation between the two countries includes training exchanges, ship visits and high level visits. Antony's visit is expected to enable both sides to engage in discussions on areas where such cooperation can be expanded to mutual benefit," defence ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said.
Antony will also interact with representatives of the Indian community in Saudi Arabia.