Singapore has launched a programme to train 100 government officials in water management and conservation in the desert state of Rajasthan and initiated plans to set up an "iconic" skills centre there, marking an expanding presence in India.
Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, who is on a two-day visit to India, yesterday held talks with Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje to finalise the collaboration plans between the two sides, which will also see Singapore offering technical expertise on water recycling.
A grant agreement was signed between the Rajasthan government and the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise to train officials in an 18- month programme.
The programme is supported by Temasek Foundation, which is giving a grant of $420,508, with co-funding of $271,028 by the Indian state government.
Rajasthan, which has a population of 73 million people, is a desert state that is often hit by drought and suffers from an acute shortage of water. The state makes up 10 per cent of India's land area but has only 1.16 per cent of its water resources.
"It is a large state with a large desert, but where there is some synergy (between Singapore and Rajasthan) is in that they need to maximise their water resources. So they are focused on desalination, they are focused on recycling waste water, and in those areas, we have technology which is among the best in the world," Mr Shanmugam told The Straits Times.
A team of Singaporean experts will also share with the Rajasthan government the Republic's experience in water recycling that could be implemented in the state's capital and tourist hub of Jaipur.
"This partnership is something we value highly," Ms Raje told the visiting Singapore delegation in talks.
The collaboration between the two sides includes the setting up of a skills centre in Rajasthan within a year, with help from Singapore's Institute of Technical Education.
"She (Raje) was very keen on setting up a world-class skills centre here and we have agreed that the focus can be on hospitality management and training. So we have identified six... related courses which can be put together along with some English training, but make it an iconic project that can be a real brand value for Rajasthan and its young men and women," said Mr Shanmugam, who is also Minister for Law. "We are hoping to do it within a year."
Also, Gardens by the Bay will help in the planning of two parks in Jaipur.
Mr Shanmugam's visit to India is part of a series of bilateral visits that have taken place since Mr Narendra Modi became Prime Minister after leading his party to power last year.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam was in India earlier this month to kick off celebrations to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties between India and Singapore. Mr Modi is expected to visit Singapore later this year. Last month, Second Minister for Trade and Industry and Home Affairs S. Iswaran was in India. Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was in Singapore last August.
The visits come on the back of the Modi government's push for foreign collaboration and focus on upgrading and building of dozens of cities, an area in which Singapore has expertise.
Singapore is already helping the southern state of Andhra Pradesh to build a new state capital city, with two Singapore companies, Surbana International Consultants and Jurong International, in the process of preparing the masterplan for the city.
Mr Shanmugam will meet Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu today, the last day of his four-day South Asia tour that also took him to Sri Lanka. "Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan are two states which have asked us to work with them and we have agreed," said Mr Shanmugam of Singapore's expanding cooperation with the Indian states.
This article was first published on Feb 26, 2015.
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