Trilateral maritime exercise with Thailand in the Andaman Sea is in the offing after Indian and Singapore have successfully held naval drills SIMBEX for the last 25 years in the region.
This has emerged in a joint statement released by Singapore's Minister of Defence Dr. Ng Eng Hen and Indian Minister of Defence Nirmala Sitharaman after the third Defence Ministers’ Dialogue(DMD) between the two countries held here in New Delhi.
Appreciating Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision for the Indo-Pacific region articulated in the 2018 Shangri-La Dialogue, Dr Ng said Singapore strongly supports India’s deep engagement with ASEAN member states participating in patrols along the Straits of Malacca and is looking forward to trilateral maritime exercise with Thailand.
"As littoral countries astride key sea lanes of communication, the ministers underscored the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation and overflight consistent with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [UNCLOS, The Hague court]," the joint statement said.
Sitharaman affirmed India’s full support and active participation in the regional security architecture of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM)-Plus and its many initiatives. As an ADMM Plus member, India supports the adoption of the Guidelines for Air Military Encounters framed for the regional militaries.
Notably, after the rejection of Hague court ruling in 2016 on the illegality of China's occupation of abandoned islands in the South China Sea and their conversion into military bases, smaller littoral countries, including many in the ASEAN, huddle around India in hope to strike some balance of power.
Indian defence minister also reaffirmed New Delhi's position that disputes should be resolved through peaceful means, and in accordance with the universally recognized principles of international law.
Both ministers agreed on the importance of international cooperation in tackling transnational security threats and in particular measures to collectively tackle the threat of terrorism.
The two sides also agreed to step up intelligence and information sharing, particularly in the areas of maritime security and counter-terrorism and expand collaboration on submarine safety and rescue.
The ministers also commended the progress in defence technology collaboration under lndia-Singapore Defence Technology Steering Committee and the India-Singapore Defence Industry Working Group. These joint R&D collaborations include areas such as Combat Care and Vehicle Armour.
The ministers' meeting saw renewal of the bilateral agreement for the conduct of joint army training and exercises in India.