Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday made two proposals for expanding the scope and the depth of the India-ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) defence relations. These include an initiative for women in United Nations Peace Keeping (UNPK) operations and another initiative on marine plastic pollution. He made these at the inaugural India-ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting held today at Siem Reap in Cambodia to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of India-ASEAN relations.
On the sidelines, Mr. Singh also held a bilateral meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin during which he emphasised the need for both countries to “work together for capability building in critical domains such as military aviation, artificial intelligence and cyber technology.”
Mr. Singh emphasised that the centrality of ASEAN in the Indo-Pacific region is the cornerstone of India’s Act East Policy. “One of the initiatives proposed by the Defence Minister was the ‘India-ASEAN Initiative for women in UNPK operations’ which includes conduct of tailor-made courses for women peacekeepers of ASEAN member states at the Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping in India and conduct of a ‘Table Top Exercise’ in India for women officers from ASEAN incorporating facets of UNPK challenges,” a Defence Ministry statement said.
The meeting was co-chaired by Mr. Singh and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence of Cambodia General Tea Banh. It preceded the 9th ‘ASEAN-Defence Ministers Meeting’ Plus scheduled to take place on Wednesday.
The second initiative on marine plastic pollution includes channelising of the energy of the youth towards addressing the critical issue of marine pollution, the statement said. Mr. Singh informed the ASEAN members of the significant work done by the NCC in the cleaning of Indian beaches and raising awareness about plastic pollution in the coastal community, the Ministry said. “He suggested coordination between the NCC and the equivalent youth organisations of ASEAN countries for a collective effort in this direction in the region.”
He also proposed establishment of an India-ASEAN marine pollution response centre at Chennai by the Indian Coast Guard to address and supplement regional efforts to deal with marine pollution incidents. “Both the initiatives were very warmly received by the ASEAN defence leadership who unanimously and strongly endorsed its practicality and relevance,” the statement said.
Mr. Singh also conveyed India’s continued advocacy for a free, open, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific while also suggesting the need for India and ASEAN to work together for maritime security in the region, the statement said. “He expressed satisfaction towards ASEAN’s support for the first India-ASEAN maritime exercise planned to be conducted in May next year,” it added.
In talks with Mr. Austin, Mr. Singh said he looked forward to building a roadmap towards greater defence industrial collaboration between India and the U.S. “He highlighted India’s growing expertise in aircraft Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) and ship-building, repairs and refits and suggested specific areas where U.S. defence companies can look for technology cooperation and manufacturing opportunities with Indian partners in India,” the Ministry said.