Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Eye on China: India and Singapore ink naval pact

Rajat Pandit | TNN | Updated: Nov 29, 2017, 08.39PM IST

 Photo shows Nirmala Sitharaman and her Singapore counterpart Dr Ng Eng Hen


The pact was inked to majorly crank up their maritime security cooperation with access to each other’s basesIt was signed after the delegation-level talks between defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Singapore counterpart Dr Ng Eng Hen

NEW DELHI: India and Singapore on Wednesday inked a naval pact to majorly crank up their maritime security cooperation with access to each other's bases, while reiterating the need for all to respect freedom of navigation and trade in international waters in the backdrop of China's aggressive and expansionist behavior in the Asia Pacific region.

The naval cooperation agreement to bolster maritime security, joint exercises, "temporary deployments from each other's naval facilities" and mutual logistics support was inked after the delegation-level talks between defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Singapore counterpart Dr Ng Eng Henhere in the morning.

Easy access to the Singapore port, with refueling and berthing facilities, will serve to enhance the operational reach of Indian warships and aircraft east of the Malacca Strait, which is a critical choke point for China's ever-expanding energy supplies. It fits into India's overall "Act East" policy to deepen military ties with ASEAN countries like Singapore, Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia and Indonesia as a counter to China.

India, in turn, will provide naval practice and logistics facilities to Singapore, which will include live firing drills in the Andaman Sea, to add to similar services already being provided to the army and air force of the city-state for the last 10 years, as was reported by TOI on Tuesday.

Appreciating India's "leading role" in the Indian Ocean Region, Dr Ng said Singapore would "encourage" more Indian warships to come its shores, help in further securing the sea lanes of communication towards the Andaman Sea and the Strait of Malacca, expand and institutionalize maritime exercises with like-minded regional and ASEAN partners.

"We want to see more participation, cooperation and activity in both the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea," said Dr Ng, adding that it was crucial to join forces against terrorism, chemical, biological and radiological threats.

Sitharaman, in turn, said the two countries had decided to expand overall defence ties and were "strongly committed" to boosting cooperation in tackling transnational security threats, especially terrorism.

The two countries also decided to renew the bilateral army pact, under which facilities are provided to Singapore for exercises of mechanized forces at Babina and artillery at Deolali ranges, when it ends next year. The bilateral air force one, under which F-16 fighters from Singapore regularly exercise at the Kalaikunda airbase in West Bengal, was renewed for another five years in January this year.

Singapore's proposal to expand the "Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea" to all ADMM-Plus (ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus) countries as well as to establish guidelines for air encounters between military aircraft in order to reduce the risk of miscalculations also figured in the discussions.

On regional security, the two countries reiterated the importance of maintaining maritime freedom of navigation in international waters, right of passage and overflight, unimpeded commerce and access to resources in accordance with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea

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