With Sultanate of Brunei’s territorial dispute with China showing no signs of ending, India has now offered the services of its retired soldiers to the tiny island nation to augment its armed forces. Brunei, so far, has been dependent on British military support, especially in the form of soldiers. If accepted, Indian hands could replace British forces in Brunei.
On Tuesday, an agreement on defence cooperation was inked between Vice-President Mohammad Hamid Ansari and senior representatives of the Sultanate. While the agreement only talked about boosting defence ties by conducting joint military exercises and bilateral cooperation through exchange of visits, experience, information, training and cooperation between the defence industries, sources present at the meeting told The Indian Express that India offered to provide the services of retired officers and soldiers, particularly of the Gurkha Regiment, to Brunei.
However, no final decision was taken Tuesday on the matter. Defence cooperation between India and Brunei already exists in the form of naval ship visits, training of senior military officers in staff colleges and exchange of experience. The framework agreement seeks to institutionalise this cooperation.
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Brunei is a British protectorate, with British forces stationed here at the request of the Sultan. Last year, the agreement between the UK and Brunei was renewed for another five years.
Meanwhile, other MoUs signed during Ansari’s visit included an agreement on health cooperation that will involve exchange of doctors, other professionals and experts, besides regulation of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and cosmetics. Ansari has also talked about setting up a fertiliser plant in Brunei.