India and Singapore signed a strategic partnership agreement on Monday, under which both the countries’ navies will support and cooperate with each other for submarine rescue missions.
It is one of the major steps taken by the Indian government to strengthen ties with South East/Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries.
The decision was taken during a defence ministerial dialogue in the national capital. Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh co-chaired the fifth India-Singapore Defence Ministers’ Dialogue along with Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Defence, Singapore.
During their virtual interaction, both ministers expressed satisfaction at the progress of the ongoing defence cooperation engagements between the two countries despite limitations imposed by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Defence and security engagements between India and Singapore have broadened significantly in scale and scope across all three services of the armed forces as well as in the areas of defence technology and industry. Both countries have also found common ground on multilateral fora and engagements.
The ministers witnessed the signing of the Implementing Agreement on Submarine Rescue Support and Cooperation between the Indian Navy and the Singapore Navy.
They also conveyed their full support towards the early conclusion of agreements to facilitate the conduct of live firings and to establish reciprocal arrangements for the cross-attendance of military courses.
Singh conveyed his compliments on the effectiveness of pandemic mitigation measures implemented in Singapore and the contribution of Singapore’s armed forces in restricting the spread of Covid-19.
He also highlighted the role of the Indian armed forces in combating Covid-19 and various missions undertaken to assist in repatriation of Indians stranded overseas.
Hen reciprocated the compliments and exchanged views on the role of the armed forces in the whole of government’s approach towards controlling the pandemic.
Both ministers also expressed satisfaction at the growing defence ties between the two countries. Both sides reviewed the progress of various bilateral defence cooperation initiatives being pursued over the last year and expressed commitment to further elevate the scale of engagement in areas of defence technology and industry.
“During the dialogue, both the ministers discussed new areas of potential cooperation and articulated their vision in this direction,” a joint statement of both the ministers stated.
They further welcomed the initiatives to expand bilateral defence cooperation, including the implementing agreement on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) cooperation in August 2020 for the two armed forces to have closer operational collaboration in response to disasters and capacity-building activities of mutual interest. The cyber agencies of both the armed forces have also stepped up engagements.
The ministers were pleased that the Indian Navy and the Republic of Singapore Navy successfully conducted the 27th edition of Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise (SIMBEX) and also participated in the second edition of the Singapore-India-Thailand Maritime Exercise (SITMEX), both held in November 2020.
These exercises enhanced the interoperability among the navies and underscored the shared responsibility of the countries to work together to keep the sea lines of communication open.
Singh reaffirmed ASEAN centrality in the regional security architecture and pledged India’s support to all the endeavours of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM). Hen expressed support for India’s upcoming co-chairmanship of the ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Group on high availability disaster recovery (HADR).