Singapore is a "major fulcrum centre" for India as it shifts its attention to the Asia-Pacific and boosts its presence in the region, Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said yesterday.
He said he hopes the close association between India and Singapore will go beyond just establishing a strategic partnership, as India changes its engagement with Asean countries from "Look East" to its "Act East" policy.
"We consider Singapore a major fulcrum centre for this policy to be initiated, a key component and key friend of India to ensure that peace and tranquillity remain in this region," Mr Parrikar told a joint press conference with his Singapore counterpart, Dr Ng Eng Hen, after their meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue yesterday.
Mr Parrikar also met Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.
The defence ministers were meeting at the inaugural Singapore-India Defence Ministers' Dialogue, which is part of a series of things the two countries agreed to do after signing a revised defence cooperation agreement last November.
During the hour-long meeting, both sides reaffirmed their longstanding relationship and pledged to enhance their defence partnership. This includes beefing up cooperation on counter-terrorism and maritime security. The defence industries of Singapore and India will also work closely together.
According to a joint statement issued after the meeting, the Indian and Singapore air forces have conducted 11 bilateral exercises since 2004, while their armies have held joint artillery and armour drills since 2005.
Dr Ng said closer ties with India will allow both sides to deepen the scope and complexity of the joint training.
He said Singapore is grateful that India has allowed Singapore soldiers and airmen to train in India, and both sides have agreed to work towards renewing the training agreements when they expire from next year.
On the ongoing territorial spat in the South China Sea, chiefly among China, Vietnam and the Philippines, Mr Parrikar said India supports international law as "a basic parameter" for countries to resolve their disputes.
"We have always been insisting that all parties should resolve this peacefully based on international laws and various other international norms... we feel it should be resolved by sitting across the table," he said.