S'pore, India gear up to celebrate 50 years of ties

S'pore, India gear up to celebrate 50 years of ties
India's External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the Istana yesterday. Mrs Swaraj attended a cultural performance at NUS to inaugurate next year's celebrations marking 50 years of bilateral ties.

A series of events including an exchange of state visits and cultural festivals will take place in Singapore and India next year to celebrate 50 years of ties.

The commemorative activities kicked off with a cultural performance and the launch of a logo for the celebrations at the National University of Singapore's University Cultural Centre yesterday, which was attended by Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam and India's new External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Mrs Swaraj, who assumed the office in May this year, was in Singapore for a two-day introductory visit that ended yesterday.

She called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, and also had a meeting with Mr Shanmugam yesterday.

In a joint statement from both foreign ministries, the ministers agreed that the main highlight of the 50th anniversary celebrations will be the exchange of state visits by President Tony Tan Keng Yam and India's President Pranab Mukherjee next year.

The celebrations will also feature a Festival of Singapore in India and the Year of India in Singapore.

The two foreign ministers agreed to work towards a first bilateral meeting between PM Lee and his counterpart Mr Narendra Modi, who assumed office in May, at the "earliest possible opportunity".

They also agreed to explore further areas of collaboration.

These are: Scaling up investments and trade; speeding up air and maritime connectivity and coastal development; smart city development and urban rejuvenation, including water and waste management; skills development and capacity building; and state focus to strengthen business and cultural links, the joint statement said.

Preliminary work has already been carried out by officials, and study visits and consultations are being planned in the coming months.

On economic ties, both ministers said they hoped negotiations for the second review of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca) between the two countries would be completed quickly to send a positive signal to the business community.

They said that Ceca, which was signed in June 2005, is the cornerstone of deepening economic ties, with annual bilateral trade having grown from US$4.2 billion in 2003-2004 to around US$19.4 billion (S$24.2 billion) in 2013-2014.

On regional and global affairs, the two ministers had a candid exchange of views, the statement added.

They said they were confident that ASEAN and India could work together for a larger trade deal in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which involves China and other countries in the region.

India will chair the next round of RCEP negotiations, and both ministers expressed confidence that RCEP will complement the ASEAN-India Free Trade Agreement and entrench India's strategic presence in the region.

During Mrs Swaraj's meeting with Mr Lee at the Istana, he noted that bilateral ties were underpinned by high-level and regular political engagement between the two governments, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Business and trade linkages are increasingly robust, and both sides are actively exploring new areas of collaboration, the statement added.

Mr Lee also welcomed India's strategic partnership with ASEAN, and encouraged India to continue playing an active and constructive role in the region and supporting ASEAN's centrality in the various regional groupings.

Mr Goh and Mrs Swaraj exchanged views on recent developments in India and the Asia-Pacific region. He said that he looked forward to meeting Mr Modi during a working visit to India next month.

This article was first published on August 17, 2014.
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