New Delhi: India and Singapore on Wednesday signed an agreement to deepen cooperation in maritime security and called for ensuring freedom of navigation in critical sea lanes in the backdrop of China’s increasing assertiveness in the region.

“The conclusion of the India-Singapore Bilateral Agreement for Navy Cooperation...will lead to increased cooperation in maritime security, joint exercises, temporary deployments from each other’s naval facilities and mutual logistics support," the defence ministry said in a statement after talks between defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Singaporean counterpart Ng Eng Hen.

Taking forward India’s leading role in the Indian Ocean Region, Ng agreed to India’s proposal for continuous and institutionalized naval engagements in their shared maritime space, including establishing maritime exercises with like-minded regional/Asean partners, the ministry added. “India and Singapore remain strongly committed to tackle the transnational security threats," Sitharaman said at a joint media interaction with Ng, noting that both sides agreed to ramp up overall defence cooperation.

The Singaporean defence minister called the talks “overwhelmingly successful and productive" and emphasized the need for concerted regional and global efforts to deal with terrorism and other challenges such as tackling chemical and biological weapons.

Both emphasized the importance of international cooperation in tackling transnational security threats, and in particular measures to collectively tackle the threat of terrorism.

The two sides also signed the revised Defence Cooperation Agreement to further strengthen the longstanding defence relationship between the Singapore Armed Forces and the Indian Armed Forces. The joint statement said both ministers look forward to the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Singapore-India maritime bilateral exercise next year. They welcomed the renewal of agreement between the air forces of the two countries earlier this year and look forward to the successful renewal of a similar pact between their armies, the statement said.

The two ministers also discussed Singapore’s proposal to expand the Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea to all ADMM (Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting)-Plus countries as well as to establish guidelines for air encounters between military aircraft, the statements said.

They also resolved to work closely in joint development of various defence platforms. They agreed that to facilitate greater collaboration in aerospace, electronics and other areas of mutual interest between the defence industries of both countries.

PTI contributed to this story.

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