Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei): Adding a deeper strategic dimension to its ‘Act East’ policy, India on Tuesday agreed to conduct joint military exercises with Brunei and encourage cooperation among the defence industries of the two countries as part of initiatives to boost their role in the security architecture of South East Asia.
The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on defence cooperation in the presence of Vice-President Hamid Ansari to enhance cooperation in various fields. While they already cooperate in the form of naval shop visits, training of senior military officers in staff colleges and exchange of experience, the scope is being broad-based through the framework agreement under which the bilateral cooperation will now also cover conduct of joint military exercises, seminars and discussion as also engagement between the defence industries of the two countries.
Speaking about the importance of the agreement, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs Anil Wadhwa, who signed the agreements on cooperation in defence, health and youth and sports affairs, later told mediapersons that Brunei plays an important role in the security architecture of the region. He said a working level delegation on defence cooperation from Brunei would visit India to thrash out the finer details of the engagement. He said officials with expertise and power would deliberate on how to operationalise the details of the framework.
On the claims by China to several key land and other assets in the South China Sea, the official said Brunei is of the considered view that the parties concerned should solve the issue through deliberations and that it not be internationalised to an extent where talks reach breaking point. He said for Brunei, along with the security of its hydrocarbon assets, the safety of communication and transportation rights are equally important.
Wadhwa also spoke about how during the vice-president’s meeting and discussions with Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah and Crown Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah, as also during the talks between other officials, regional and international issues were discussed. “The issue of terrorism and use and misuse of technology by terror groups was also discussed.”
During their discussions the two countries also agreed to not view developments in the Middle East and the refugee problem plaguing Europe through a religious colour.
Agreements on health
As for the pact on health cooperation, what is envisaged is exchange of doctors, professionals and experts, exchange of information on health, collective medical and health research development, and promoting business development in the field of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cosmetics. Under the agreement, pharmaceutical and diagnostic companies from India would explore possibilities of greater business with Brunei and a delegation from India would visit the country soon.
Another delegation will travel from India to Brunei for finalising the modalities of setting up a fertiliser plant here which would be fired by local gas and whose produce would be retained or marketed by India.
The crown prince, who is a sports enthusiast, played a key role in the finalisation of the third agreement on youth and sports affairs under which exchange of expertise in coaching, sports talent identification and management would be facilitated.
Wadhwa said both the Sultan and the Crown Prince also expressed their desire to visit India and have been extended formal invitations.