Singapore and India discuss plans on use of the Chandipur live-firing range in India

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh shake hands with each other at Mindef HQ on Nov 20, 2019.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh shake hands with each other at Mindef HQ on Nov 20, 2019.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - It is impossible to conduct live firing of missiles like the Spyder ground-based air defence system in Singapore because of the country's limited size.

But it may be able to do so at the Chandipur Integrated Test Range in India in the future, if a new defence technology cooperation agreement between the two countries come to fruition.

On Wednesday (Nov 20), Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and his Indian counterpart, Rajnath Singh, witnessed the exchange of a letter of intent on the issue.

At the end of the 4th India-Singapore Defence Ministers' Dialogue held at the Ministry of Defence, both sides also agreed that the Singapore-India-Thailand maritime exercise, held for the first time in the Andaman Sea in September, should be held annually from next year.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Dr Ng said that defence ties between India and Singapore had grown from strength to strength since 2015 when the revised Defence Cooperation Agreement, which established the dialogue between the defence ministers, was signed.

In turn, Mr Singh said: "From our discussions today, I am confident that we will enter in a new era of defence partnership in composing both bilateral defence cooperation and defence industry cooperation."

He said that submarine rescue and humanitarian aid and disaster relief emerged as new areas of cooperation which both sides have agreed to pursue.

He added that the discussions were "fruitful, cordial, frank and very detailed".

The Indian minister, who was appointed in May, is on a three-day introductory visit to Singapore from Monday (Nov 18). He called on Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday and also visited Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) units.

Asked about the the Chandipur facility , Dr Ng said that it would be impossible to fire missiles like the Spyder ground-based air defence systems in Singapore as it is a small country.

 
 
 

"So we're very thankful to India for providing that facility. India is a large country with a large land mass, and we understand also that this is a significant gesture on their part. We want to use the facility very productively."

On the trilateral exercise, Dr Ng said it offered benefits at various levels. At the navy-to-navy level, confidence and interoperability could be built up and tactics as well as protocols shared.

It also sent an important signal that the Andaman Seas and the Malacca Straits are international straits which commercial and military ships pass through, said Dr Ng.

"It gives confidence to our own militaries as we exercise our duties, as well as to the international shipping communities in other countries who use these vital waterways," he said.

Responding to the same question on the maritime exercise, Mr Singh said that India is seeking to further enhance its participation and engagements in the Indo Pacific which is an important region for his country.

A joint statement by the two defence ministers after the meeting said that the exercise underscored the shared responsibility of the countries to work together to keep sea lines of communications open, and strengthens interoperability between the three countries.

Another letter of intent was exchanged on Wednesday reaffirming a mutual commitment to explore deepening humanitarian assistance and disaster relief cooperation in areas such as information sharing and capacity building.

The joint statement said Mr Singh also offered the setting up of joint test facilities under the Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme of India, and Dr Ng agreed to explore opportunities for joint collaboration.

They also agreed to explore cooperation in areas such as artificial intelligence, geo-spatial data sharing, and cyber security.

Dr Ng expressed appreciation for India's continued support of the SAF's training in India, while Mr Singh reaffirmed India's support and participation in the regional security architecture, namely the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus and its initiatives, added the statement.

A separate statement from Mindef said that both ministers reaffirmed the strong and long-standing bilateral defence relationship and discussed ways to strengthen defence cooperation.

They also discussed regional security developments and reaffirmed the good progress made in cooperation across the three services on defence technology and in multilateral engagements.

The first India-Singapore Defence Ministers' Dialogue was held in Singapore in 2016. An annual affair, the next one will be held in India.

As part of Mr Singh's introductory visit, he went aboard stealth frigate RSS Stalwart at RSS Singapura-Changi Naval Base.

He was also hosted to a familiarisation ride on the Republic of Singapore Air Force's Super Puma helicopter at Sembawang Air Base.

He also paid his respects at the Kranji War Memorial earlier on Wednesday.