NEW YORK: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has met his Singaporean counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan here and held a 'comfortable conversation' on developments in the strategic Indo-Pacific and shared thoughts on combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jaishankar, who held a series of bilateral engagements on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly which is now drawing down, left for Mexico on Sunday. In a tweet, Jaishankar termed his Singaporean counterpart Balakrishnan as an "old friend".
"A comfortable conversation with an old friend. Discussing Indo-Pacific developments with FM @VivianBala of Singapore. Sharing thoughts on overcoming the Covid challenge," he said on Twitter on Sunday on his meeting with the Indian-origin Singaporean leader.
India, the US and several other world powers have been talking about the need to ensure a free, open and thriving Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China's rising military manoeuvring in the region. China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.
The meeting between Jaishankar and Balakrishnan came a month after India and Singapore explored ways to cooperate in the Indo-Pacific and exchanged views on international and strategic issues pertaining to the region.
The two sides had held discussions at the 15th India-Singapore Foreign Office Consultations that took place virtually on August 11.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), both sides reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relations and expressed satisfaction that despite the coronavirus pandemic, considerable substance and content had been added to the ties, especially in the trade and defence sectors.
Singapore has taken over as the country coordinator for India at the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) for a three-year period from 2021-2024. Jaishankar is visiting Mexico at the invitation of his Mexican counterpart Marcelo Ebrard Casaubón.
This will be his first visit to the North American country as the External Affairs Minister during which he will participate in the commemorative events of the 200th anniversary of the consolidation of Mexican Independence along with other world leaders, the MEA said in a statement.
In addition to his meeting with Casaubón, he will also call on President of Mexico Manuel Lopez Obrador and interact with the leading CEOs and the business community in Mexico, which is currently India's second largest trade partner in Latin America and is a member of the UNSC alongside India for the 2021-22 period.