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India-Singapore military ties set to deepen

Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen meeting Indian President Pranab Mukherjee yesterday during an official visit to India. Ng also held talks with Defence Minister A. K. Antony yesterday. AFP

Publication Date : 22-11-2012


Both countries on track to renew pact on training and army exchanges

Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said India and Singapore are looking at stepping up military exchanges and are on track to renew a bilateral agreement that will see continued training exercises and professional exchanges between their armies.

Ng, who is here on a two-day visit, held talks with Indian Defence Minister A. K. Antony and met President Pranab Mukherjee yesterday. He also met National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon.

"We want to see a broadening and deepening of military-to-military exchanges. It befits our perception of how important this relationship between Singapore and India is," said Ng, who described the delegation-level talks as "very warm and cordial".

He said Antony also expressed his desire for a common goal - to see the three services interact even more. "We're looking for concrete ways, deliverables, things that we can do. Minister Antony expressed his desire to see our three services interact even more and I fully concurred with him," said Ng.

A release from the Indian defence ministry said the two sides had decided to hold regular defence minister meetings to exchange views on common security concerns, among other issues.

Defence ties between Singapore and India have deepened since the two countries signed a defence cooperation agreement in 2003 and began holding regular bilateral military exercises and exchanges. During Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's visit in July, both governments renewed an agreement to allow the Republic of Singapore Air Force to continue joint military training at Kalaikunda Air Force Station for five more years. A bilateral agreement between the armies of both countries for joint training and exercises is up for renewal next year.

Ng said Antony assured him that the renewal "should be no problem".

"It helps us understand how we operate and learn from one another...," he said of the joint training and exercises.

The two defence ministers also covered a wide range of bilateral and multilateral issues, including Afghanistan and tensions over overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Ng said: "We hope there will be more dialogue, and a step forward and a move away from the current trajectory."

His introductory visit to India has been a busy one, during which he laid a wreath at India Gate and inspected a guard of honour.

India and Singapore have had close economic and security ties since Singapore championed India's move to become a full dialogue partner of Asean in the 1990s. Ahead of the Asean-India commemorative summit to mark their 20th anniversary, Ng once again urged India to be more active in Asean.

"We hope India will step forward and step up," he said.


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