Arguing that maintenance costs have gone up, India has asked Singapore to cough up more money for using its military base for the advanced training of Singapore Air Force personnel. The two countries are racing against time to complete negotiations for renewing the lease agreement on a long-term basis, with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong scheduled to arrive in India in the second week of July.
“We have asked for more money as costs have really gone up...We hope to reach an agreement with Singapore soon, as we hope it will be signed during (Singapore) Prime Minister’s visit (to India),” said a senior government official. Singapore has given high priority to its military preparedness following its bitter split from Malaysia in 1965.
In October 2007, India, for the first time, allowed a foreign country to station its troops and Defence facilities on a long-term basis, which was a demonstration of India’s reliance on Singapore as an anchor for its ‘Look East’ policy. The agreement for the conduct of joint military training in India between the IAF and the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) was signed in Delhi, as part of the annual Defence Policy Dialogue.
Incidentally, India and Singapore have also signed a similar agreement for Army training, but it will come up for renewal next year. For Singapore, which has an area of just 700 sq km, overseas training for its fighter pilots, primarily flying F-16 fighter jets, is necessary in the absence of any suitable open tracts of land and airspace.
“It has been a win-win situation for both sides. We get upgraded facilities, while they get space to conduct their exercises,” said the official.
In the past five years, Singapore has set up its own facilities at Kalaikonda air base in West Bengal, including residential block and stores.