Reinvigorating Strategic Partnerships
Prime Minister Narendra Modi made official visits to Malaysia and Singapore recently and has reinvigorated the strategic partnerships with these two countries
A] t the invitation of Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia, Narendra Modi undertook an official visit to Malaysia on November 23, 2015. Earlier, Modi participated in the ASEAN–India Summit and East Asia Summit on November 21-22, 2015. The two Prime Ministers held official talks in Putrajaya and jointly inaugurated the Torana Gate in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur, a gift from India to Malaysia, as a symbol of India-Malaysia Friendship.
Peace and Security in the Region
During the official talks, the two Prime Ministers acknowledged that India-Malaysia relations have made impressive strides in recent years. The two leaders acknowledged the contribution made by Malaysia and India in promoting growth, economic development and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, and recognised each other’s responsibility in the promotion of peace, development and security of the region, and beyond, based on a convergence of political and socio-economic interests and aspirations.
Defence and Security
The two Prime Ministers agreed to enhance defence exchanges through regular dialogue at various levels, including between the Defence Ministers, senior defence officials, Chiefs of the Armed Services and through Service-to-Service Staff Talks. The two also agreed to convene the next India-Malaysia Defence Cooperation Meeting at Defence Secretary/Secretary General level. They welcomed the outcome of the joint exercises Harimau Shakti and to upgrade the exercises to company level, and subsequently to tri-services exercises. There was agreement on setting up the Su-30 Forum for cooperation in training, maintenance, technical support and safety-related issues, building on the assistance by India for successful completion of the Su-30MKM training programme by Indian pilots in Malaysia.
India and Malaysia also agreed to promote joint collaboration on projects of mutual interest in the defence sector including in the areas of defence equipment and industry, research, training and capacity building; hold annual talks between the Heads of the Indian Coast Guards and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency including during Head of Asian Coast Guard Agencies Meeting (HACGAM).
The two leaders expressed strong condemnation for terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and called upon all States to reject terrorism and bring perpetrators of terrorism to justice. In this context, they welcomed the ongoing cooperation between the two countries on counter terrorism and agreed to further enhance cooperation in this direction. They agreed to continue sharing of information and best practices to address the challenges posed by terrorism, and other traditional and non-traditional threats.
They also agreed to discuss further the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners, which is an important humanitarian gesture towards sentenced prisoners.
Strategic Partnership with Singapore
At the invitation of Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore, Modi paid an official visit to Singapore from November 23 to 24.
Both Prime Ministers held substantive discussions in areas of mutual interest, signed the Strategic Partnership, and witnessed the signing and exchange of nine bilateral documents, and the launch of commemorative stamps to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
Political, Defence and Security Cooperation
The two Prime Ministers decided to sustain the momentum of bilateral relations through regular high-level visits. They encouraged the continuation of regular exchanges under the agreed dialogue mechanisms between the Foreign Ministries and the Defence Ministries. They reaffirmed the importance of defence relations between India and Singapore in their Strategic Partnership. In this regard, they welcomed the signing of the revised Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) which will upgrade and strengthen bilateral defence relations. They agreed to hold regular high-level meetings, including at the level of the Defence Ministers. They endorsed the continuation of joint military exercises and training between their armies, air forces and navies.
They welcomed further collaboration in defence technology, and encouraged co-development and co-production between the defence industries of the two countries.
The two Prime Ministers decided to expand cooperation in maritime security. In this regard, they welcomed the signing of the Technical Agreement on the Sharing of White-Shipping Information between the Indian Navy and the Republic of Singapore Navy in July 2015 and they witnessed the signing of the documents for its operationalisation. They endorsed regular exchanges between the two Coast Guards and looked forward to greater bilateral Coast Guard Cooperation.
They noted the useful discussions between both sides at the IndiaSingapore National Security Roundtable meetings and affirmed its continuation on an annual basis. They welcomed the revival of the Joint Working Group on Intelligence Cooperation on Combating Terrorism and Transnational Organised Crime in order to intensify cooperation on information and intelligence sharing on
terror networks and work together to share experiences on dealing with the growing phenomenon of radicalisation. They noted the ongoing interactions in cyber issues and agreed to strengthen bilateral cooperation in this area. The two Prime Ministers also agreed to establish appropriate mechanisms for regular bilateral consultations and exchange of real-time information between the relevant agencies in India and Singapore. They witnessed the signing of the MoU on cooperation in the area of cyber security. They witnessed the signing of a MoU on cooperation in combating illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors.
Dialogue between Defence Ministers
Establishing more regular dialogues between both Defence Ministers, deepening collaboration in maritime security and boosting cooperation between Singapore and India’s defence industries were some of the key points that came up. These are the agreements stated in the revised DCA between Singapore and India. Under the ambit of an Enhanced Defence Partnership, the revised DCA was signed by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar. The DCA was also symbolically exchanged by Permanent Secretary for Defence Chan Yeng Kit, and Indian Foreign Secretary Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in the presence of both Prime Ministers.
Commenting that the revised DCA was a significant milestone from the first one signed more than 10 years ago, Dr Ng said: “Our defence ties have committed to meetings at the highest level between Defence Ministers regularly…and more military-to-military ties and exercises.
“Specifically (there is) also closer collaboration for maritime security…(and) an agreement on exchange of information for white-shipping.” (White-shipping refers to commercial shipping information about movement of cargo ships.) He added that this collaboration put defence relations between both countries on a better footing, and signalled that Singapore and India had become closer defence partners.
On the topic of maritime security, Dr Ng said that both countries valued the importance of peace and stability, with reduced tensions and minimal possibility of any disruption to global trade and maritime lanes.
Dr Ng said: “Maritime security is an essential lifeline for economies or trade in this region, whether it’s the South China Sea or Strait of Malacca. India’s voice will be heard and we share common perspectives in terms of common stability.”
The revised DCA also coincided with the signing of a Technical Agreement on the Sharing of White-Shipping Information between the Republic of Singapore Navy and the Indian Navy in July this year. With the technical agreement, this has allowed Singapore’s Information Fusion Centre and India’s Directorate of Network Centric Operations to exchange real-time white-shipping information for greater maritime awareness and sense-making.
The revised DCA is seen as bringing the defence relations between Singapore and India a few notches up, as both countries commemorate 50 years of diplomatic relations.
Defence interactions between both countries include high-level visits, policy dialogues, joint military training, defence technology cooperation, courses, seminars and other professional exchanges.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong during the signing ceremony in Istana, Singapore, on November 24, 2015