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 on Friday (June 3).
He said he hopes that the close association between India and Singapore will go beyond just establishing a strategic partnership, as India changes its engagement with the region from "Look East" to "Act East" policy.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been looking to boost cooperation with Asean countries since he took office in 2014 and has even changed the name of a key plank of India’s foreign policy from “Look East” to “Act East”.
"We consider Singapore as a major fulcrum centre for this policy to be initiated, a key component and key friend of India to ensure that peace and tranquility remains in this region," Mr Parrikar told a joint press conference with his Singapore counterpart Ng Eng Hen after their meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue.
The ministers are meeting at the inaugural Singapore-India Defence Ministers' Dialogue, which is part of a list of things that the two countries agreed to do after inking a revised defence cooperation agreement last November(2015).
During the hour-long meeting, both sides reaffirmed their long-standing relationship and pledged to enhance their defence partnership.
This includes beefing up the cooperation of both militaries in the areas of counter-terrorism and maritime security. The defence industries of Singapore and India will also work closely together.
According to a joint statement issued after Friday's meeting, the India and Singapore air forces have conducted 11 bilateral exercises since 2004 while their armies have conducted 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 that 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 in 2017 and 2018.
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.