Diplomacy

Big Deal: Singapore to be first foreign nation to use India’s missile test facility

Photo: India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh and his Singapore counterpart Dr Ng Eng Hen after their dialogue today.

Singapore: India today agreed to allow Singapore to use its missile testing facility at Chandipur off Odisha coast, in what is seen as the first time ever a foreign country gets access to the highly secure installation.

The two nations also signed a Letter of Intent to conclude a Memoradum of Understanding for India to facilitate the use of Chandipur Integrated Test Range by the Singapore defence establishment.

India’s Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh and his Singapore counterpart Dr Ng Eng Hen witnessed the exchange of the Letter of Intent after co-chairing the fourth Singapore-India Defence Ministers’ Dialogue here.

The two ministers commended the progress in defence technology collaboration between the two countries, when Rajnath Singh offered to setting up of joint test facilities for military weapons and equipment under India’s Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme. Dr Ng agreed to explore opportunities for joint collaboration, according to a Ministry of Defence statement issued from New Delhi.

The two ministers also agreed to explore cooperation in the fields of Artificial Intelligence, Geo-Spatial Data Sharing and Cyber Security. They agreed to hold the next, fifth India-Singapore Defence Ministers’ Dialogue in 2020 in India on mutually convenient dates.

India conducts almost every missile test, including the advanced Agni inter-continental ballistic missile with over 5,500 km range, from the testing facilities off the Odisha coast on the eastern seaboard abutting Bay of Bengal. Apart from Chandipur, India also used the Wheeler Island, named after former President of India A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, for the missile tests.

India had also recently decided to throw open all its state-run military testing facilities across the country for the use of the Indian private sector defence companies to validate their products and to get certified, a move largely welcomed by the domestic arms manufacturers.

Both the ministers expressed satisfaction at the deepening defence ties between India and Singapore and reaffirmed their commitment to support further initiatives that would promote stability to the region.

They lauded the growth in cooperation in the maritime domain and noted with satisfaction the successful conduct of the inaugural edition of the Singapore-India-Thailand Maritime Exercise (SITMEX) in the Andaman Sea in September 2019.

Photo: Singapore armed forces personnel present a guard of honour to India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh today.

“This exercise underscores the shared responsibility of the countries to work together in keeping sea lines of communications open and strengthens interoperability between the three countries. The participating navies have found value in the exercise and have agreed to conduct the exercise on a yearly basis,” the statement said.

The Singapore defence minister appreciated India’s continued support for the training of the Singapore armed forces in India. He mentioned the 10 years of Singapore Air ForceIndian Air Force joint military training and the bilateral air exercise that was expanded to include an air-sea training component for the first time in 2019.

Singapore Air Force pilots on their American Lockheed Martin‘s F-16 Block 50/52 regularly train alongside the Indian counterpart at the Kalaikunda air base in West Bengal

“The increasing degree of complexity of the bilateral exercises reflects the growing confidence and mutual respect for each other’s professional capabilities,” the statement said.

Rajnath Singh reaffirmed India’s full support and active participation in the regional security architecture — ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus) — and its many initiatives.

Dr Ng expressed support for India’s upcoming co-chairmanship of the ADMM Plus Experts’ Working Group on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) and welcomed New Delhi’s deepening engagements with other ASEAN nations, both in bilateral and multilateral formats.

In this regard, both sides welcomed the conclusion of a Letter of Intent to reaffirm mutual commitment to explore deepening HADR cooperation in areas such as information sharing and capacity building.

The Defence Minsiters’ Dialogue between India and Singapore had commenced in 2015 after both countries signed the revised Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) to further strengthen the long-standing bilateral defence relationship.

Since then, the relationship has broadened and deepened to encompass military cooperation across all three armed forces of India and Singapore, defence technology cooperation, as well as cooperation through multilateral engagements.

Earlier, on the final day of his visit to Singapore, Rajnath Singh visited the Kranji War Memorial and paid tributes to those who laid down their lives in the line of duty during the Second World War.

Photo: India’s defence minister Rajnath Singh paying homage at the Kranji War Memorial in Singapore during his two-day visit that ended today.

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