Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi along with several other world leaders Monday witnessed the grand closing ceremony of an unprecedented 24-country military exercise Gulf Shield 1. Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud received the state leaders, defence and foreign ministers and heads of armed forces at the event held in the desert around 140 kilometres north east of Dammam. Apart from the prime minister, Minister for Defence Khurram Dastgir, Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa and senior officials of the three services witnessed the ceremony.General (r) Raheel Sharif, the head of 41-nation Islamic Military Counter-Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) also witnessed the event. The joint tri-services exercise held along the east coast of the Kingdom under the Eastern Command of Royal Saudi Land Forces was designed to boost coordination and provide a hands-on experience of working together to achieve the common objectives. The Saudi Ministry of Defence described the Gulf Shield-1 drill a ‘turning point’ in terms of techniques used in accordance with the most modern military systems in the world.The gigantic exercise concluded with an equally impressive show full of fire and fury. The troops demonstrated their skills in coordinated attack using the air, ground and naval forces. The JF-17 fighters of Pakistan Air Force pounded the targets to soften up. It was followed by an assault of ground forces in armoured personnel carriers and air cover of the deadly Apache gunships. The marine forces from the sea breached the enemy compounds as Special Services troops cleared the remaining miscreants. The King and the dignitaries witnessed the ceremony from a hall with huge glass walls on three sides and dozens of large TV screens for a panoramic view of the desert with the Persian Gulf in the backdrop. The fire power show culminated with a parade of troops from participating countries and a display of guns, weapon systems, long range artillery and missiles used by the Saudi and other regional forces and a flypast. The King later had a group photograph with the heads of visiting delegations and hosted a luncheon in their honour. The leaders who attended the ceremony included Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Haseena Wajid, and presidents of Mali, Chad, and Burkina Faso. The largest military exercise of its kind was attended by countries that rank amongst the strongest 10 armies in the world. Troops of the Pakistan Army, Pakistan Air Force C-130, JF-17 Thunder fighter jets, Pakistan Navy ships, and commandos from Special Services Group participated in the exercise.Wide array of fighter jets ranging from F-5s, JF-17s, F-15s, F-16s, F-18s, Tornados and Typhoons participated in the exercise. The objectives of the exercise include effective measures to counter threats and challenges against regional countries, requiring a unified and integrated collective effort to deter and counter these threats. The countries who participated in the exercise with troops are Pakistan, Sudan, Djibouti, Egypt, UAE, Chad, Guinea, Bahrain, Malaysia, Mauritania, Jordan, Gambia and Kuwait. The countries which participated as observers are Bangladesh, Turkey, Qatar, Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, US, UK, Comoron Islands, Oman and Niger. The exercise focused on Irregular Warfare, Coastal Defence, Air Defence and Search and Rescue at sea to enhance interoperability amongst the participating countries. Warships from Bahrain, KSA, Kuwait, Turkey, UAE and US also took part in the exercise. Published in Daily Times, April 17th 2018.