India and Singapore deepen defence ties with naval agreement

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen is met by his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman upon his arrival at India's Ministry of Defence. PHOTO: MINDEF

NEW DELHI - India and Singapore exchanged documents on bilateral naval cooperation on Wednesday (Nov 29), reflecting deeper defence ties between the two countries amid mutual concerns about protecting critical sea lanes.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, who is on a three-day visit to India, met with his Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman under the Second Defence Ministers' Dialogue. They later witnessed the exchange of the documents.

The India-Singapore Bilateral Agreement for Navy Cooperation was finalised during the talks. A joint statement noted that the agreement "will lead to increased cooperation in maritime security, joint exercises, temporary deployments from each other's naval facilities and mutual logistics support".

The two sides also discussed increasing maritime cooperation with joint exercises from the Strait of Malacca to the Indian Ocean and in the Andaman Sea.

Dr Ng at a press conference with Ms Sitharaman noted growing areas of convergence between the two countries amid common concerns over threats of terrorism and the need for boosting maritime security.

He said: "What has marked this successful Defence Ministers' Dialogue is the meeting of minds and shared perspectives from both Singapore and India with regard to our defence relations."

Added Dr Ng: "Both Singapore and India sit astride key Sea Lines of Communication as well as overland that connects Asia and Europe. We recognise that regional stability and the international rule of law is essential for trade and commerce to flourish, and we have a vested interest in upkeeping that system."

India and Singapore share close political, defence and economic ties with a constant exchange of high level visits.

Dr Ng on Tuesday visited the Kalaikunda Air Force Station where he was flown in the Indian supersonic Tejas fighter plane - the first minister or civilian from outside India to fly in the locally-developed aircraft. Around 100 RSAF personnel and six F-16 fighter jets are currently at the Kalaikunda base for the joint military training.

Singapore, the incoming Asean chair, has helped India forge closer ties with the 10-nation regional grouping for over three decades and has continued to encourage India to expand its engagement in the region.

More recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought to boost India's ties with Asean with an invitation to the leaders of these 10 South-east Asian countries to attend India's Republic Day celebration as the chief guests.

India's Defence Minister Ms Sitharaman noted that talks held on Wednesday were "very positive and substantial" and included not just bilateral issues but also regional and international scenarios.

The officials discussed deepening counter-terror cooperation with a view of the developments in Iraq and Syria.

On terrorism, Dr Ng said both India and Singapore "shared the concern that with the developments in Iraq and Syria, that the theatre of operations for terrorism can shift to our parts of the world. And we were determined that we could step up mechanisms to share information, with regard to the threat of terrorrism."

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