Antony leaves for Singapore Shangri-La Dialogue


New Delhi : Indian Defence Minister A.K. Antony left here for Singapore Thursday night on his first foray in defence diplomacy since assuming office seven months ago.

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He will Friday-Saturday attend the Sixth Asia Security Conference, better known as the Shangri-La Dialogue and hold meetings with his counterparts from other participating countries.

Antony will address the second plenary session on "China and India: Building International Stability".

"The Shangri-La Dialogue has been recognized as a key event for defence and security diplomacy for the region," a defence ministry statement said Thursday.

"Since its inaugural meeting in 2002, the Dialogue has become a recognised part of the architecture of Asian defence diplomacy and is seen as the region's premier and most inclusive security institution.

"The Shangri-La Dialogue continues to serve as the best available vehicle in the Asia-Pacific region for developing and channelling astute and effective public policy on defence and security," the statement added.

London's International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) organises the dialogue.

During his three-day stay in the city-state, Antony will also hold bilateral meetings with his Singapore counterpart, besides US Defence Secretary Robert M. Gates, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, Japanese Defence Minister Fumio Kyuma, and Britain's Minister of State for the Armed Forces Adam Ingram.

Among others he will meet are France's Secretary General of National Defence Francis Delon, Australian Defence Minister Brendan Nelson, and Bangladesh Army chief Gen. Moeen U Ahmed.

Antony will also call on the Singapore Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, Singaporean Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong before returning home Sunday.

The discussions with Singapore officials are likely to focus on concluding a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on ramping up military cooperation between the two countries.

Indicative of their close military ties, two Indian Navy ships, the guided missile destroyer INS Mysore and the guided missile corvette INS Kultar, participated in the biennial International Maritime Defence Exhibition (IMDEX) in Singapore May 15-19.

The two ships were part of a five-vessel Indian Navy flotilla that conducted a joint drill with the Singapore Navy in March.

India and Singapore have been conducting joint naval exercises for the past 12 years. In 2005, they held their first joint army and air force exercises.

Singapore hopes this cooperation can be institutionalised through an MoU – and India has indicated its willingness.

In July-August, Antony plans to visit Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and possibly South Korea too.

In October, Antony is likely to travel to Russia, a country on which India depends for 70 percent of its military hardware and which has been a long-time strategic ally.