Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong lauded the contributions that Indian-origin people had made to Singapore, and said the Republic would support India's development where it could.
Raising a toast to his visiting Indian counterpart at an official lunch at the Istana yesterday, PM Lee said Indian immigrants had played a large part in building modern Singapore and form an essential part of its multiracial and multi-religious mix.
Aside from Indian labour that helped build many landmarks - including the Istana - Indian businessmen, traders and civil servants were here from the start. No fewer than five foreign ministers of independent Singapore had been of Indian origin.
"Singapore today has a thriving community of Indians who are well integrated in our society and form an essential part of our multiracial, multi-religious mix," he said. "India has been very much a part of Singapore's history."
Pioneers such as Mr G. Sarangapany founded the Tamil Murasu newspaper, while Mr Rajabali Jumabhoy, a Gujarati businessman, was the first president of the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
There were also religious leaders like Maulana Abdul Aleem Siddique from Meerut who established social welfare organisation Jamiyah in 1932 and the Inter-Religious Organisation in 1949.
Sikhs also contributed in many fields, including the armed forces and judiciary.
Tracing the connection with India to the 13th century, Mr Lee noted that Singapore had been part of the Majapahit Empire, one of the Indianised kingdoms in South-east Asia.
"Long before the term 'soft power' was coined, Indian influences left their mark on our traditions and landscape," he said, noting that even the names Indonesia and Indo-China attest to India's far-reaching influence.
Besides, Islam had come to the region through India.
Mr Modi's visit to Singapore, he said, came at a significant time when the two nations were celebrating the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
"We believe India is a great Asian country that has a lot to contribute to the region and we wish India well in its reforms and development," Mr Lee said.
"We hope to develop our economic co-operation, air links and other fields of co-operation and we are happy to support India's development where we can, because this is a mutually beneficial relationship."
Mr Lee said Singapore looked forward to India playing an important role in the region, promoting regional security and peace, integrating its economy with the rest of the region, and helping to shape an open and inclusive regional architecture.
The close ties started with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who admired Indian leaders like Pandit Nehru for their peaceful struggle for freedom, commitment to secularism and leadership in the non- aligned movement.
India, he noted, had declared a national day of mourning for Mr Lee when he passed away in March. Singapore was grateful to Mr Modi for this special gesture.
This article was first published on Nov 25, 2015.
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