S'pore offers to help Indian govt build 'smart cities'

S'pore offers to help Indian govt build 'smart cities'
Indian Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj (R) shakes hands with Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Law, K. Shanmugam during a meeting in New Delhi on July 1, 2014.

Singapore has offered to help India build "smart cities" and scale up cooperation in the skills development sector. The offer came from Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, who is on a five-day visit to India to "touch base" with the newly elected Indian government.

Mr Shanmugam, who arrived in Delhi on Monday evening, held discussions with Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj yesterday. Mr Shanmugam described their meeting, which continued over lunch and lasted over three hours, as "good".

Speaking to Indian and Singapore reporters, Mr Shanmugam, who is also law minister, said: "We took a review of the current status of the relationship, which is already very good. We discussed how we could take it further because we want to keep up the momentum."

One key suggestion is to help India build smart cities. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in its election manifesto said it would build 100 new smart cities if elected to power and this is now a key area of focus for the government. Such cities would have state of the art technology and infrastructure, self-sustainable habitats with minimal pollution and efficient public transport, among other things.

"We could identify one or two cities and do it as a template and work with India... I shared our experiences in other countries, including China... It has got to be private sector-led," said Mr Shanmugam.

He said the idea is for India to work on a city "with Singapore's input". He added that senior officials will discuss the matter further. Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin identified the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor, an ongoing project, as one area where these cities may be located.

The two sides also agreed to step up cooperation in skills development, with Singapore already helping India to create a world-class skills training centre, modelled on ITE Singapore, in Delhi.

Singapore and India enjoy close political and economic ties, with Singapore helping India to get the status of full ASEAN dialogue partner in 1996.

Economic ties have grown further after the two countries in 2005 signed a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca), which gave Singapore an "early mover" trade advantage over other countries. Last year, Singapore was the largest foreign investor in India with US$5.98 billion (S$7.5 billion) in foreign direct investment.

Bilateral trade more than doubled from about US$9 billion in 2004 to US$24 billion in 2012.

With the new Indian government focused on economic development, economic cooperation between the two sides is expected to expand even further. The two sides agreed to speed up the second review of Ceca, which has been held up over some outstanding issues.

Ties are expected to get a further push with a series of high-level meetings set to take place in the coming months, apart from events to mark 50 years of ties next year.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen is expected to visit India next month, while Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong will visit in September. The prime ministers of the two countries are also expected to meet later in the year, said Mr Shanmugam.

Mr Shanmugam also met Indian national security adviser Ajit Doval yesterday and is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi today.

Asked about India's new government, Mr Shanmugam said there was a "positive climate" in India following the BJP's decisive victory in the recent polls, when it replaced a fractious coalition government. He added, however, that companies will be looking at India's budget, to be presented next week. He said: "The fact that the new government is looking at increased inflow is of interest to Singapore's companies... The simple fact that the government is not constrained by coalition politics is a big positive."

gnirmala@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 02, 2014.
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