Singapore’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vivian Balakrishnan and Israel’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology, Orit Farkash-Hacohen signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cross-border cooperation in artificial intelligence on March 21 during a visit by the Singaporean minister to Israel.
The city-state and Israel have had ties since before diplomatic relations were formalized in 1969.
Singapore, a British trading post that was freed from its colonial status in 1959, joined the Federation of Malayan States in 1963 but was excluded in 1965, leaving it isolated. Israel helped Singapore to build up its army, but Singapore sought to conceal the presence of Hebrew military advisers because of its relations with its neighbors, Malaysia and Indonesia, which have large Muslim populations. Even today, Singapore tends to downplay its ties with Israel and aims to maintain good relations with both Israel and Muslim countries.
Singaporean Minister Vivian Balakrishnan visited the Middle East last March. He visited the Palestinian Territories, Bahrain and Israel. In fact, he stated:
“Singapore has long supported in principle a negotiated two-state solution, in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security, to achieve a lasting, just and comprehensive solution.”
Singapore-Israel artificial intelligence cooperation agreement
Vivian Balakrishnan stayed in Israel for three days. In a meeting with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, he announced that Singapore intends to open an embassy in Tel Aviv to “serve as a focal point and support Singaporean companies seeking to establish their collaboration with potential Israeli partners.”
Military advisors had begun to leave the City-State in the mid-1970s, the two countries have nevertheless established relations in the arms industry, defense but also in the technology sectors. For example, the Singapore-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation (SIIRD) was established in 1997 and has funded some 190 projects.
During the visit, Vivian Balakrishnan said, ” Singapore and Israel should deepen their collaboration in emerging areas such as agribusiness technology, health technology, AI and digitalization as the world emerges from the pandemic.”
The AI MOU
Dr. Balakrishnan also met with Israeli Minister of Innovation, Science and Technology Orit Farkash-Hacohen. The two signed a memorandum of understanding on AI cooperation between Singapore’s Smart Nation and Digital Government Office and the Israeli Ministry of Innovation, Science and Technology.
According to a statement from the Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “The MoU signals the intention of both countries to accelerate cross-border collaborations in the field of AI and supports the development and deployment of AI for the collective benefit.”
Singapore and Israel intend to strengthen their cooperation in the emerging areas of innovation and technology but also in trade, investment, research and education.