Address by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen for the Indian Ocean Region Defence Ministers' Conclave

Address by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen for the Indian Ocean Region Defence Ministers' Conclave

Defence Minister Shri Rajnath Singh,

Esteemed Defence Ministers,

Senior Officials,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to address this conclave.

India, as the World's most populous democracy, is well placed to lead in many issues related to globalisation, but in my view, none more so than maritime trade and security. India has and always will be a maritime nation. From her the motto, "To be secure on Land, we must be Supreme at Sea". The Indian Kotiya dhow is the physical embodiment of that deep and long maritime tradition, which seafarers used for thousands of years to connect India with Asia and the Middle East. Through the seas, India transported cultural, religious and linguistic influences to ASEAN countries that last to this day.

Maritime nations like India and Singapore are also acutely aware that Sea Lines of Communication must keep above the fray of sovereign disputes and contestation. They are global commons that must be protected, lest they fall prey to rising tensions or worse still, actual physical conflicts. The price of that disruption of maritime trade, as we have witnessed during this COVID-19 pandemic, will choke off essential supplies to many countries, whether it is in the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal, Malacca Straits or the South China Sea. By virtue of its geography and trade links, India sits as a leader in both the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and the ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM)-Plus. Thus India is, as it should be, a strategic voice and influence in maritime norms for these vital oceanic regions and globally.

Singapore will work with like-minded partners to preserve and advance maritime norms that protect vital waterways. Singapore hosts the Information Fusion Centre with its extensive network of International Liaison Officers and linkages to navies, coast guards, and other maritime agencies. Similarly, the Changi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) Coordination Centre complements regional efforts to combat climate change and natural disasters. Singapore welcomes more IORA member to partner these centres.

Singapore, like India, firmly believes in upholding freedom of navigation and over-flight in the maritime domain, unyielding principles that are vital for maintaining regional peace and stability.

Singapore supports India's leadership to foster a rules-based maritime order in the Indo Pacific. Regionally, our Navies participate in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium and ADMM-Plus Maritime Security Field Training Exercises, where we practise the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea. Our two Navies have also recently conducted the 27th edition of the Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise and the 2nd edition of the trilateral Exercise SITMEX with Thailand in November last year, to enhance interoperability.

Singapore is thankful and will give full support to India as it plays its role as a responsible and inclusive maritime global leader. Thank you.

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