Singapore's success story as a small country with an immaculate global reputation is a role model many Indian states can emulate. That was the view of five Indian members of parliament, who were here for a three-day visit last week.
They came from a cross-section of the Lok Sabha (Lower House of Parliament): Mrs Meenakashi Lekhi, 48, MP for New Delhi from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP); Mr Arka Keshari Deo, 36, MP for Kalahandi (Odisha) from the Biju Janata Dal; Mr Bhagwant Mann, 41, MP for Sangrur (Punjab) from the Aam Aadmi Party; Mr Dushyant Chautala, 27, MP for Hisar (Haryana) from the Indian National Lok Dal; and Mr Rahul Kaswan, 38, MP for Churu (Rajasthan) from the BJP.
"Small country but with a big past and big future," Mrs Lekhi, a lawyer, said with a smile when asked to sum up Singapore. She points to the continuing need for Singapore and India to further strengthen ties by elevating bilateral relations to a strategic partnership in order to achieve concrete deliverables in areas such as "Smart Cities" and "Skills Development".
This year, the two countries commemorate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations. India was among the first countries to set up bilateral ties with Singapore on Aug 24, 1965, after the Republic gained independence.
She said Indian prime minister Narendra Modi's approach towards South-east Asia, previously called "Look East" and now renamed "Act East", has sought to be comprehensive with more focus on economics, soft power, connectivity and maritime security.
She added: "Mr Modi has been deft at using what Mr Joseph Nye (US political scientist and former US assistant secretary of defence) has dubbed 'smart power' - the right blend of soft power and hard power."
Mr Deo, who hails from the Kalahandi royal family in Odisha, urged more Indian states to foster stronger bilateral relationships, especially in a new era where India has moved from idealism to pragmatism in a number of its relationships.