New Delhi: India and Singapore on Wednesday exchanged a Letter of Intent that could pave the way for the city-state to conduct the live firing of missiles at the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur in Odisha, the defence ministry said in a statement. This is the first instance of India opening up its test range for any foreign country and underlines the close defence co-operation between India and the city state.
It also marks another step in India’s intensification of defence co-operation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is situated close to India’s strategic competitor China.
The letter of intent was exchanged during the 4th India-Singapore Defence Ministers' Dialogue (DMD) which was co-chaired by Rajnath Singh on the Indian side and Singapore counterpart Ng Eng Hen.
Singapore Defence Minister Ng said India’s offer would make it possible for the city state to test fire missiles like the Spyder ground-based air defence systems which was not possible otherwise given Singapore small land mass.
"So we're very thankful to India for providing that facility. India is a large country with a large land mass, and we understand also that this is a significant gesture on their part. We want to use the facility very productively," Ng was quoted as saying by the Straits Times newspaper. The Integrated Test Range (ITR), a well equipped Test and Evaluation (T&E) center of DRDO, is set up to provide safe and reliable launch facilities for performance evaluation of rockets, missiles and air-borne weapon system, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) said on its website.
India has previously allowed the Singapore Air Force to use its airspace for training exercises.
A defence ministry statement said Singh held wide-ranging talks with Ng after which the two ministers also oversaw the signing of a preliminary pact on deepening Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) cooperation. The two countries also identified new areas of cooperation in their defence partnership, including in exercises and test firing by Singapore in India, information exchange, launch of micro satellites in India, geo-spatial data sharing, artificial intelligence and cyber security. Singh also invited Singapore to invest in research, development and testing facilities in the upcoming defence industrial corridors in India, the statement said. Ng is said to have responded positively to Singh’s invitation to explore opportunities for joint collaboration. He also welcomed India's continued engagement to the region and its active role in the regional security architecture.