Defence cooperation to be key focus of PM's visit to Indonesia, Singapore

New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaUpdated: May 24, 2018, 09:16 PM IST

File photo of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Photograph:(Zee News Network)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will begin a five-day visit on Tuesday to Indonesia and Singapore, two of India's strategically key partners in the region, with an aim to deepen defence ties, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region.

Announcing the visit, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said a raft of agreements including in areas of defence and security are expected to be inked during Modi's visit to these two countries, which are members of powerful regional grouping ASEAN.

India and Indonesia are likely to sign a pact on defence cooperation as a similar agreement inked years ago had expired. 

Secretary (East) in the MEA Preeti Saran said the prime minister will arrive in Indonesia on May 29 and will leave for Singapore from there on May 31 for a three-day visit.

In Singapore, Modi will hold bilateral talks with his Singaporean counterpart and deliver the keynote address at the Shangri-la dialogue which is expected to be attended by top leaders from several important countries.

Asked about Singapore's apparent reservations over formation of a quadrilateral coalition among India, the US, Australia and Japan, she said there has been a "deep sense" of appreciation among the ASEAN nations about New Delhi's views about peace and security in the region.

"We give primacy and importance to ASEAN's unity and ASEAN's centrality in the region," she said. Singapore is a key member country of the 10-nation ASEAN grouping with which India has been intensifying its defence and security ties. 

The US, Australia and several other leading powers have been favouring a greater role by India in the Indo-Pacific region where China has been flexing its military might.

About Modi's visit to Indonesia, Saran said the country is India's closest maritime neighbour and there will be discussions on ways to deepen maritime cooperation, particularly in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Earlier this year, both countries held their first security dialogue during which areas for boosting military cooperation were identified.

Asked whether Indonesia will give Indian navy ships access to deep-sea port in Sabang, Saran did not give a direct reply, but said discussions have been underway on enhancing overall connectivity and cooperation.

Boosting trade and enhancing connectivity will be another focus area of Modi's visit to Indonesia, which will be his first to the country as PM.

Saran said the prime minister's engagement in Jakarta will include his address at a gathering of Indian community and at a forum of top businessmen. 

He will also inaugurate a kite festival jointly organised by a leading Indonesian museum and Kite museum of Ahmedabad. The kite festival will depict common theme of Ramayana and Mahabharata, showcasing cultural links between the two countries.

On June 1, Modi will hold extensive talks with Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong besides addressing CEOs of top 20 companies of the country during which he is expected to highlight the reforms initiated by his government to boost the economy.

Saran said both the countries are likely to ink a number of pacts in the areas of defence, space and skill development.

In Singapore, the PM will attend a business and community event, will participate at an interaction with the president and board members of the Nanyang University, one of the premier educational institution globally, and inaugurate a plaque at a place where Mahatma Gandhi's ashes were immersed. 

In 1948, Gandhi's ashes were sent to various parts of India and the world, including Singapore.

A key highlight of Modi's visit to Singapore will be his address at the Shangri-La dialogue. 

Modi is the first Indian PM who has been invited to deliver key note address at the forum, said Saran, adding he is expected to delve into India's view on peace and security in the region. 

The prime minister is also likely to share his philosophy on 'Sagarmala', a project to develop a string of ports to strengthen maritime connectivity, during the keynote address.

On June 2, Modi is scheduled to visit Changi naval base. He will also visit an Indian ship which will be in Singapore as part of bilateral naval exchanges.