Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia and India agreed on Monday to step up defence cooperation, including training of air force pilots and submarine personnel, defence ministers from both sides said.
Keeping pace with its new economic powerhouse image, India’s military, the world’s fourth largest, is fostering closer ties with Southeast Asian allies. “Both sides will enhance defence exchanges at various levels, promote cooperation in training, in strategic and security studies,” Indian Defence Minister A.K. Anthony said after talks with his Malaysian counterpart, Najib Razak.
Najib said they did not discuss the issue of ethnic Indians, who staged an unprecedented protest in November to complain of racial discrimination.
The protest drew world attention particularly from India, whose prime minister voiced his sympathy for the plight of the Indian diaspora in Malaysia.
“The minister is aware of the political development. Just leave it,” Najib said.
Under the defence deal, India will deploy 31 air force personnel to train Malaysian air force pilots and technicians at a Malaysian airbase for two years from next month.
This is on top of similar training in India for Malaysian air force personnel flying Russian-made Sukhoi Su-30 fighters, Najib told reporters.
“We also agreed to consider the possibility of a cooperation in joint maintenance and use of Scorpene submarines,” he said.
Malaysia has bought two French Scorpene submarines, with the first unit to be delivered next year, while India has ordered six of the submarines.
The two countries also agreed to exchange army trainers and expand joint naval exercises, Najib said.