India and S'pore to boost defence ties

India and S'pore to boost defence ties

NEW DELHI - India and Singapore agreed to step up their defence partnership and explore new areas of cooperation during a meeting here between their defence ministers yesterday.

Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen's visit is aimed at strengthening defence ties with the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was sworn in three months ago.

At the meeting with his Indian counterpart, Mr Arun Jaitley, the two ministers agreed that "this would be an opportune time to step up the defence relationship between India and Singapore", Singapore's Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said in a statement.

"This could be achieved under the ambit of an enhanced partnership between the two countries which will deepen our defence relationship and allow both sides to explore new areas of cooperation for mutual benefit," the Mindef statement added.

Dr Ng called his meetings with Indian officials, including National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, "very productive".

"I came out of these meetings very reassured and, despite the new government, the desire to strengthen India-Singapore bilateral ties has not waned," he told reporters. "In fact, signals I received gave us assurance this new government wants to continue good ties with Singapore."

Areas that the two sides are looking at include exchanging defence technologies. Defence Secretary R.K. Mathur will visit Singapore next week for further talks.

Defence ties have grown since both countries signed a defence cooperation pact in 2003 and began holding regular bilateral military exercises and exchanges.

Dr Ng's three-day visit, which ends today, comes at a time when the new Modi government is opening up the defence sector. It has raised foreign investment caps to 49 per cent.

It is also going ahead with defence acquisitions such as fighter jets, helicopters, artillery guns and other weaponry to modernise the Indian military.

The two countries are holding a series of commemorative events in the lead-up to the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties next year. The main highlight of the celebrations will be the exchange of state visits by their presidents.

There has also been a flurry of ministerial visits in recent months.

Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam was here last month. Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong is scheduled to visit next month.

And Mrs Swaraj just returned from a two-day introductory visit to Singapore last week.

This article was first published on August 22, 2014.
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