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Rajnath Singh discusses bilateral ties with Malaysia's top leadership as two sides approve amendments in MoU on defence co-op

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inspects a Guard of Honour ahead of his meeting with Defence Minister of Malaysia Dato' Seri Mohamad Hasan, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Monday, July 10, 2023. A PTI Photo

KUALA LUMPUR (PTI):  India and Malaysia have agreed to amend a key MoU signed in 1993 to enhance military-to-military and technology cooperation, as Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held productive talks with the country's top leadership, including Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, to realise the full potential of their strategic partnership.

Singh arrived in Kuala Lumpur on a three-day visit to Malaysia on Sunday. This is the first bilateral visit after the establishment of the Enhanced Strategic Partnership, which was announced during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Malaysia in 2015.

Singh began his official engagements on Monday with a ceremonial Guard of Honour at the defence ministry in Malaysia. It was followed by bilateral talks with his Malaysian counterpart Mohamad Hasan.

"Called on the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mr @anwaribrahim in Kuala Lumpur. Deeply appreciate his positive approach and interest towards further deepening India-Malaysia bilateral relations," he tweeted.

He conveyed warm greetings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the prime minister of Malaysia, who appreciated the strong cultural bonds between the two nations.

Singh briefed Ibrahim about the "fruitful and productive" defence dialogue held earlier in the day. The meeting focused on measures to realise the full potential of the Enhanced Strategic Partnership, according to an official statement.

"Had an excellent meeting with the Defence Minister of Malaysia, Mr. Mohamad Hasan in Kuala Lumpur today. We reviewed the diverse pillars of the extensive bilateral defence engagement and discussed the roadmap for the 4th Decade of India-Malaysia Defence Cooperation," Singh tweeted.

Both sides discussed initiatives to further expand bilateral defence ties, with a particular focus on identifying ways to strengthen industrial cooperation. They reaffirmed their commitment to fully implement the Enhanced Strategic Partnership based on mutual trust and understanding, common interests and shared values of democracy and the rule of law, the statement said.

The two ministers agreed to the next Malaysia-India Defence Cooperation Committee (MIDCOM) meeting which is being planned in India later this year.

Singh highlighted the potential of the Indian defence industry with the capacity and capability to cooperate with the Malaysian Armed Forces in its inventory modernisation and maintenance plans.

During the meeting, both leaders agreed to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation by signing the Exchange of Letter (EoL) to amend the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Defence Cooperation between Malaysia and India which was signed in 1993, said a joint press statement issued after the meeting.

This signing of EoL will facilitate more bilateral activities between all three military services in the future, it added.

The statement said that two defence ministers had a productive interaction and both leaders acknowledged the strong bilateral relations and reaffirmed the commitments to further enhance defence cooperation, particularly in military-to-military cooperation and defence science, technology and industry.

Both leaders also agreed to explore more collaboration between Malaysia and India in the interoperability of the two militaries in all three domains; land, sea, and air in the near future. The commonality of the defence assets between the two countries will elevate the cooperation, particularly in maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO), it said.

They also agreed to establish the SU-30 Forum and the Strategic Affairs Working Group to elevate the cooperation between the two ministries.

Senior officials and military personnel from both ministries will further engage to discuss matters related to defence using these platforms.

Singh also held a "fruitful meeting" with Foreign Minister of Malaysia Zambry Abdul Kadir and discussed a wide range of issues of mutual interest aimed at further strengthening the India-Malaysia Enhanced Strategic Partnership. They exchanged views on matters of bilateral importance and cooperation in international fora.

India's recognition of ASEAN centrality and the importance of peace, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region were discussed. The meeting concluded with India's assurance to partner with Malaysia in its efforts to accelerate self-reliance of the Malaysian Defence Industry, the statement said.

Later, Singh felicitated a 99-year-old Indian National Army veteran, who fought alongside freedom fighter Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose at the Burma border, at an event here. Singh also interacted with the Indian community.

"Raksha Mantri Shri @rajnathsingh felicitating Second Lieutenant Sundaram, an INA veteran who fought alongside Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose at the Burma border at an event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. He is 99 years old," the defence ministry tweeted.

He also unveiled a bust of Bose and described the freedom fighter as an "icon of bravery, leadership and patriotism".

"Honoured to unveil the bust of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in the presence of distinguished INA (Indian National Army) veterans in Kuala Lumpur today. Netaji and the INA have an important legacy in Malaysia. An icon of bravery, leadership, and patriotism, Netaji continues to inspire generations in India and Malaysia," Singh said.

The defence ministry in New Delhi said on Saturday that Singh and Hasan will review defence cooperation between the two countries and explore new initiatives to further strengthen the engagements.

"India and Malaysia have a common interest in peace and prosperity of the entire region. The two democracies have a robust and multifaceted relationship which has expanded into several strategic areas, including defence and security," the ministry said.

"Both the countries are committed to work under the vision of enhanced strategic partnership established during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Malaysia in 2015," it said.

Singh would also inaugurate the new Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Regional Office at Plaza Central, Kuala Lumpur. HAL is an Indian Defence Public Sector Undertaking (DSPU), akin to GLC in Malaysia. HAL will assume the role of a one-stop agency to facilitate collaboration between Indian and Malaysian companies, the statement said.

"The purpose of the visit was to exchange views on various issues, especially in enhancing Malaysia-India bilateral defence relations as well as international and regional issues of shared concerns," it added.

Malaysia is among a handful of countries showing keen interest in procuring India's indigenously developed Tejas aircraft.

Tejas is a single-engine multi-role fighter aircraft capable of operating in high-threat air environments.

Singh's visit to Malaysia "reflected the importance of strong international defence relations as prescribed by the Third Pillar of the National Defence Strategy, which is on Credible Partnerships, as outlined by Malaysia's Defence White Paper (DWP)," the statement said.

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