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Singapore has expressed its reservation over the proposed quadrilateral coalition of India, the US, Japan and Australia, with the country's defence minister saying it is not useful to cast one bloc against another.
In an address at a think tank here, Singapore's defence minister Ng Eng Hen pitched for an "inclusive regional security architecture" to ensure peace and stability in the region.
He said Singapore was open to multilateral exercises in the Indian Ocean region.
Delving into regional security issues, he sounded critical of the proposed quadrilateral coalition, saying it is not useful to cast one bloc against another.
He said "polarising defence and trade" would not be helpful for the region and called for crafting a "stable system" wherein all small and large states have ways and means to resolve disputes through peaceful means.
He also called India a "regional power" in the Indo- Pacific region and said the country was a "natural partner" of all countries in Southeast Asia.
"We are trying to craft a system under which we can ensure peace and progress for everyone," Ng said.
In an apparent reference to China's growing assertiveness in the disputed South China Sea, he said freedom of navigation and overflight must be respected.
Ng's remarks on Tuesday came a day before his talks with Indian counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman.
Widening the security cooperation under the proposed quadrilateral coalition, officials of India, the US, Japan and Australia had held extensive talks on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit in Manila earlier this month, for pursuing common interests in the strategically important Indo-Pacific region where China has been aggressively expanding its military presence.
Singapore is a key member-country of the 10-nation ASEAN grouping with which India has been intensifying its defence and security ties.
The move to set up the quadrilateral comes in the backdrop of growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea. The US has been favouring a larger role for India in the strategically important Indo-Pacific region.
Ng, in his address, also complimented India's Act East policy, saying it is making an impact.
He paid rich tributes to Jawaharlal Nehru, saying his country was inspired by the first prime minister of India.