Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore cancelled due to deterioration of global COVID situation

The Shangri-La Dialogue, which was scheduled to take place on June 4 and June 5 in Singapore, was cancelled due to the deterioration of the global COVID-19 situation, including in the host nation, the organisers of the prestigious top defence summit said on Thursday.

Held in Singapore every year since its inception in 2002, the security summit gathers top level military officials, diplomats, policy makers and weapons manufacturers from across the world, including India.

A spokesperson for the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), which organises the event, in a statement said it was “with regret and sadness” that the 2021 Shangri-La Dialogue had to be called off.

The spokesperson said even during COVID-19, the IISS believes in the role of face-to-face diplomacy to solve global problems.

“Unfortunately, the global Covid-19 situation has recently deteriorated, in part because of the rise of infectious new Covid variants.

“In Singapore, there has been a rise in local cases, recently introduced new restrictions, and the prospect of further tightening cannot be ruled out – all of which creates uncertainty. Taken together, all of these various factors mean that holding an in-person Shangri-La Dialogue this year has become unviable,” the spokesperson said.

It was previously announced that the dialogue would be a fully in-person event held within a bubble at Shangri-La Hotel.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin had confirmed his attendance, while Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga had been invited to headline the event as keynote speaker.

A wide range of defence ministers, senior military officials, corporate leaders and influential strategists from Asia, North America, the Middle East and Europe had also confirmed their attendance.

IISS will plan the return of the full in-person Shangri-La Dialogue in the middle of next year, the statement said. The 2020 edition was also cancelled due to the pandemic.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was the most recent keynote speaker in 2019. In 2018, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the keynote speaker.

This is the second mega international event in Singapore to be cancelled in a week due to COVID. On Monday, the World Economic Forum called off its special meeting in the island nation, about three months before it was scheduled to take place in August.

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