India to open up its missile test range to Singapore

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh sakes hands with Defence Minister of Singapore NG Eng Hen at the luncheon meeting, in Singapore on Tuesday. (PTI Photo)

India plans to open up its closely-guarded missile test range on the Bay of Bengal coast to its strategic partner Singapore.

Following a meeting between Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and his Singapore counterpart NG Eng Hen, the two sides on Wednesday exchanged a Letter of Intent to register their commitment to conclude a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate the use of Chandipur Integrated Test Range by the Singapore defence establishment, official sources said.

No foreign country has so been allowed to use the DRDO facility on the Odisha coast, but India bears a special relationship with the island nation that sits on the entry of the Malacca Straight, through which a significant volume of Chinese cargo passes through.

Singh also offered setting up of a joint test facility under the Defence Testing Infrastructure Scheme besides proposing collaboration on artificial intelligence, geo-spatial data sharing and cyber security.

The Defence Minister travelled to Singapore after participating in the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (Plus) at Bangkok. He called on the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Heng Swee Keat on Tuesday before having a bilateral with Hen a day later.

More than a decade back India opened up the doors of its military training establishment to the island nation, which doesn't have adequate space to set up such facilities.

India and Singapore signed two agreements in October 2007 and August 2008 for utilisation of Indian facilities by Singapore Air Force and Singapore Army respectively. In 2013 another agreement was signed to permit training of Singapore Army personnel in two additional Indian Army establishments.

Singapore uses IAF's Kalaikunda base to train Royal Singapore Air Force pilots on combat skills using their own F-16D fighter planes. Last year, the two countries signed a logistics support agreement to replenish each others' warships, submarines and naval aircraft. Hen was the first foreign dignitary who was given a spin in the indigenous Tejas fighter jets.

In his meeting with Singapore leaders, Singh stressed that the Indo-Pacific for India means an open, inclusive and stable region, connected through secure seas, integrated by trade and anchored by the unity and centrality of ASEAN.

He reiterated India’s stand that the implementation of international laws and norms, freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful commerce and peaceful settlement of disputes is the only way to ensure a rule-based order in the Indo-pacific region.

Singh undertook an air sortie in Super Puma Helicopter of Singapore Air Force and visited Singapore naval ship RSS Stalwart besides meeting Major Ishwar Lal who had served the Indian National Army under the leadership of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.

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