Last week, India and Singapore held this year’s iteration of the defense ministers’ dialogue between the two countries. The dialogue spotlighted some of the ongoing efforts by both countries to make further inroads in their security ties amid wider domestic and regional developments.
The annual Singapore-India Defense Ministers’ Dialogue (DMD) was first held following the signing of the revised Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA) in 2015 as both countries commemorated the 50th anniversary of their defense relationship during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Singapore. This was part of a series of developments that have spotlighted India’s growing effort to deepen security collaboration with key Southeast Asian states under Modi.
Last week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines again with the holding of the fourth iteration of the DMD. The dialogue was co-chaired by Singapore Defense Minister Ng Eng Hen and visiting Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh in Singapore – the first time that both had done so since Singh had taken over from his predecessor Nirmala Sitharaman earlier this year.
As with previous iterations, during the DMD, the two defense ministers discussed a range of issues regarding the bilateral defense relationship across all three services an as well as regional and international security developments. They also explored areas for deepening collaboration, including artificial intelligence, geospatial data sharing, cybersecurity, and joint test facilities.
Apart from that, the DMD also saw both sides finalize some more specific inroads for the defense relationship. According to the joint statement released by both sides, most notably, the ministers witnessed the exchange of letters of intent to register commitment to conclude a memorandum of understanding to facilitate Singapore’s use of Chandipur Integrated Test Range, which would allow Singapore to conduct testing of its missile testing there in the future.
In addition to that, both sides also exchanged letters of intent related to deepening collaboration on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in areas such as information sharing and capacity building. This came just ahead of India’s upcoming co-chairmanship of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) Experts’ Working Group on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR).
Furthermore, two sides also officially announced that following the holding of the inaugural Singapore-India-Thailand maritime exercise (SITMEX) earlier this year, they would look to annualize the drills henceforth. While no further specifics were unveiled, the agreement nonetheless spotlighted the broader scope of Singapore-India ties beyond just the bilateral relationship itself.
Apart from the DMD, Singh’s introductory visit to Singapore, which took place from November 18 to 20, also saw him participate in a series of other interactions as well, which further underscored the attempts by both sides to develop their defense relationship. Per Singapore’s defense ministry (MINDEF), Singh met with other top Singapore officials, including Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Heng Swee Keat. And he also visited Singapore facilities, including Changi Naval Base, where he went on board RSS Stalwart, and Sembawang Air Base, where he was hosted to a familiarization ride on the RSAF’s Super Puma helicopter.