India, Brunei sign accords on defence, health, sports (Lead, changing dateline)

Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei), Feb 2 (IANS) India and Brunei signed three agreements for cooperation in the areas of health, defence, and youth and sports affairs on Tuesday, the second day of Vice President Hamid Ansari’s visit to this southeast Asian nation.

“The three MoUs (memoranda of understanding) signed today (Tuesday) which the honourable vice president was witness to are the MoUs on health cooperation, defence cooperation and cooperation in youth and sports affairs,” Anil Wadhwa, secretary (east) in the external affairs ministry, said at a media briefing here.

“As far as these MoUs are concerned, they have been in the pipeline for sometime, especially the MoU on defence cooperation,” Wadhwa said.

The MoU on health seeks to establish cooperation in the field of health by pooling technical, scientific, financial and human resources and to upgrade the health care, medical education, research between the two countries.

“Specific areas that have been identified for bilateral cooperation are: exchange of doctors, other professionals and experts; exchange of information on health; medical and health research development; regulations of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cosmetics and to promote business development in these areas; and health promotion and disease prevention,” Wadhwa explained.

The MoU on defence is aimed at enhancing defence cooperation between India and Brunei in various fields.

“Cooperation in defence already exists in the form of naval ship visits, training of senior military officers in staff colleges and exchange of experience,” Wadhwa said.

Tuesday’s framework agreement seeks to institutionalise this cooperation.

According to Wadhwa, the following major areas have been identified for bilateral cooperation: exchange of visits at different levels; exchange of experience, information, training, trainers, etc.; conduct of joint military exercises, seminars and discussions; cooperation between the defence industries of the two countries.

The MoU on youth and sports affairs is aimed at providing a framework for exchanges of sports persons and sports teams, to facilitate the exchange of expertise in coaching, sports talent identification, sports management and administration, and exchange of information in the field of youth Affairs.

“As far as follow-up is concerned, and that is important, a team from Brunei will visit India to follow up on the MoU on defence cooperation, to identify areas which are required immediately in the medium term and long term after which work can begin in those specific areas,” Wadhwa said.

On the MoU on health cooperation, Wadhwa said that India would be sending a delegation to identify how to set up facilities in Brunei “which can be linked up, for example, through satellites, also diagnostics and how to set up exchange and training of doctors in India”.

“But I think there will be much more in this field in the future as this is an area of interest for both of us,” he added.

It was also decided that an investment delegation will come from India to get phosphates for production of fertilisers in Brunei based on gas as the feedstock, which was available in this southeast Asian country.

“And for this purpose, a specific team will have to come from India to get sites with possibilities based on availability of gas,” Wadhwa said.

Vice President Ansari, who arrived here on Monday on the first leg of his visit to southeast Asia, on Tuesday met Sultan of Brunei Hassanlal Bolkiah, Crown Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah and Speaker of Brunei’s state legislative council Haji Abdul Rahman.

A number of issues, both regional and international, were discussed during the course of Ansari’s meetings with these leaders.

“The first issue that was touched upon was the problem of terrorism, how technology has been used or misused as far as spread of terrorism is concerned, and the importance which should be attached to cooperation in this sector which is exchange of information, use of information technology, and cooperating with Asean as a larger group,” Wadhwa said.

He also said that the issue of South China Sea was discussed “and both sides were on one page on this and that this issue should be solved peacefully”.

Security in the Asean countries and terrorism and religious conflicts were also discussed.

Ansari, according to Wadhwa, briefed the crown prince about India’s Act East policy and the special push being given to upgrade ties with the southeast Asian nations.

Ansari also extended an invitation to the crown prince to visit India.

On Monday, after his arrival, the vice president attended meetings of the Brunei-India Friendship Association and the Indian Chamber of Commerce.

On Wednesday, he will leave for Thailand on the second and final leg of his southeast Asia visit.

This is the first visit by an Indian vice president to Brunei and will be the first in 50 years to Thailand.

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