India committed to free, open South China Sea: Rajnath

Singapore, Nov 19 (IANS) Defence Minister Rajnath Singh here on Tuesday met Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Heng Swee Keat and said India was committed to an open and free South China Sea.

Singh is on a two-day visit to Singapore to co-chair the 4th India-Singapore Defence Ministers’ Dialogue, scheduled on Wednesday.

The Defence Minister referred to India’s stand on the South China Sea and the Indo-Pacific region and stressed that the Indo-Pacific for India meant an open, inclusive and stable region, connected through secure seas, integrated by trade and anchored by the unity and centrality of Asean, the Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Singh’s statement about the need for a free and open Indo-Pacific region comes at a time when naval forces across the world, including the US and France, are concerned about China’s attempts to increase its footprints in the region through militarisation.

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

Singh conveyed to Keat that India’s vision of a comprehensive agenda of regional cooperation was rooted in ‘SAGAR’, that’s ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region’. During the meeting, they also agreed upon furthering bilateral defence cooperation.

India and Singapore have increased the armed forces’ engagement through joint exercises.

Singh also took a sortie in the Super Puma Helicopter of the Singapore Air Force at the Sembawang Air Base and visited Singapore naval ship RSS Stalwart.

He paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at his Marker in Singapore and also to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Indian National Army martyrs at their memorial. He also met Major Ishwar Lal, who had served INA under the leadership of Bose.



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