Singapore, India to be strategic partners

Singapore, India to be strategic partners
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee welcoming Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the presidential palace in New Delhi yesterday. With them were Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Dr Tan’s wife, Mrs Mary Tan.

NEW DELHI - After five decades of friendship and a "special relationship" going back even further, Singapore and India will soon be elevating ties to the next level, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said last night.

Singapore-India relations will be elevated to a strategic partnership this year, Dr Tan said at a state banquet organised in his honour by his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee.

"Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be signing this milestone agreement later this year. There is much that both our countries can achieve by working together and much we can learn from each other," Dr Tan said.

Singapore's High Commissioner to India Lim Thuan Kuan had told reporters that the strategic partnership would enhance cooperation in areas such as promotion of investments, urban solutions, smart cities, water and waste management, and skill development. Such a partnership results in more high-level exchanges.

India was one of the first countries to recognise Singapore's sovereignty, doing so on Aug 24, 1965. This year marks the golden anniversary of bilateral relations.

Mr Mukherjee said at the banquet that in recent years, the bilateral relationship had seen "a quantitative and qualitative expansion". He said he was glad that both countries had embarked on a "5S" plank: scale up trade and investments, speed up connectivity, smart cities, skill development and state focus.

Dr Tan, too, noted that ties have grown stronger. Economic relations have grown by leaps and bounds since the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement in 2005. Singapore is now India's largest foreign direct investor, and both militaries train together regularly.

But the hallmark of close ties remains the people-to-people links, rooted in centuries of contact and reinforced today by the many visits of leaders and people.

Dr Tan noted that many of Singapore's earliest settlers were of Indian origin, among them prominent community leaders who played crucial roles in the country's development. And India remained a close friend after 1965.

"As a new nation, we looked to India as one of our models, and India generously responded by sharing its experiences with us."

Dr Tan said first Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew had been inspired by India's founding father Jawaharlal Nehru's vision of a secular and multiracial India.

He also noted that then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong sparked off an "India Fever" in Singapore in 1992, shortly after India launched economic reforms.

"That fever is now back again," said Dr Tan.

The state banquet capped a day of meetings with senior Indian officials, including Mr Mukherjee and Mr Modi. Both men gave Dr Tan a ceremonial welcome, and he laid a wreath at the Raj Ghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi.

During their meeting, Dr Tan and Mr Modi reaffirmed the warm and longstanding relations between both nations, and agreed to elevate ties to a strategic partnership, Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

They agreed to achieve concrete deliverables in areas such as smart cities and skill development, and Mr Modi noted many new opportunities for further cooperation, the ministry said.

Both leaders also had fruitful discussions on enhancing aviation and maritime connectivity between Singapore and India.

This article was first published on February 10, 2015.
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