Vivian visits India for regular bilateral dialogue

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan with India’s External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi yesterday.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan with India’s External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi yesterday. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, INDIA

Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan, who is on a one-day visit to India, said the Republic was looking forward to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit next month and the elevation of bilateral ties to a strategic partnership.

Mr Modi is likely to visit Singapore from Nov 23 to 25. The two countries are marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations this year.

"Prime Minister Modi's visit to Singapore is significant… One of the highlights will be the signing of the strategic partnership," Dr Balakrishnan told reporters yesterday.

He was speaking after holding talks with External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at the fourth meeting of the India-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) for Bilateral Cooperation, a regular dialogue process that began in 2008.

Explaining the nature of the strategic partnership, Dr Balakrishnan said: "We are looking for additional opportunities, especially in urban solutions, smart cities knowledge and skills transfers. This will be the strategic part with deliverables and concrete outcomes."

A press statement from Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the strategic partnership would also see the expansion of cooperation in investment and trade, speeding up of air and maritime connectivity, and strengthening of cultural and business links.

Singapore shares close political and economic ties with India. It is India's biggest trading partner in Asean and one of India's biggest foreign investors. Bilateral trade rose from S$16.6 billion in 2005 to S$25.5 billion in 2013.

Singapore is already involved in India's urban infrastructure and skills training sectors, two key areas for the Modi government, which has been trying to improve the business climate and push for more foreign investments since it came to power a year ago.

Singapore has created a masterplan for Amaravati, the new capital of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. Dr Balakrishnan said Singapore's association with the project would continue. The Andhra Pradesh government has begun to implement the masterplan.

"Our companies will also participate in the tender for seed development... that means to actually execute initial parts of the masterplan. But in the usual Singaporean way, we are not asking for any favours," he said. "We will compete and compete fairly."

This year, in a fresh initiative, Singapore partnered with the desert state of Rajasthan to set up a skills centre in the tourist city of Udaipur to train 480 students annually in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 13, 2015, with the headline 'Vivian visits India for regular bilateral dialogue'. Print Edition | Subscribe