India, Singapore seek new areas of cooperation

In their 30-minute meeting yesterday, visiting Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam (left) and Mr Narendra Modi discussed the possibility of working together in providing low-cost housing and river cleaning. -- PHOTO: AFP/ PIB
In their 30-minute meeting yesterday, visiting Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam (left) and Mr Narendra Modi discussed the possibility of working together in providing low-cost housing and river cleaning. -- PHOTO: AFP/ PIB

Move comes ahead of celebrations marking 50 years of diplomatic ties

India and Singapore are starting a new chapter in bilateral ties and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen to open new areas of cooperation, including port management and river cleaning.

In their 30-minute meeting yesterday, visiting Singapore Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam and Mr Modi discussed the possibility of working together in providing low-cost housing and river cleaning. They also touched on celebrations to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties next year.

"We have done many big things together. It is a continuation of a journey in which many chapters have been written and this is another chapter," Mr Shanmugam told The Straits Times.

He also conveyed a message from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to Mr Modi that ties "should be made even stronger through a series of concrete steps", according to the Indian Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Mr Modi, who took office last month, is no stranger to Singapore. His links with Singapore were forged during his three terms as chief minister of western Gujarat state, which he turned into an economic powerhouse. He welcomed many delegations from Singapore and also visited the Republic.

He is known to be inspired by Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who visited Gujarat in 2006. Mr Goh is scheduled to visit India in September.

This year, Singapore is a partner country in the Vibrant Gujarat convention, a biennial investor summit.

Mr Shanmugam, who described his meeting with Mr Modi as "good", said he raised the possibility of Singapore partnering India in urban renewal and "smart cities" projects, and working together on skills upgrading schemes.

Mr Modi, whose pet project is cleaning up the heavily polluted Ganges - which Hindus regard as their holiest river - asked for Singapore's help in river cleaning.

"The Prime Minister also raised the feasibility of cooperation in river cleaning and I said we are happy to share our experience, though of course the size and scale of what we did in Singapore and what faces India is different," said Mr Shanmugam.

Officials from both sides could meet to discuss the various proposals and see if these could be firmed up in time for a meeting between their prime ministers later in the year.

Mr Shanmugam had a packed schedule yesterday, meeting Defence and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley; Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister for Communication and Information Technology and also for Law and Justice; Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani; and Minister of State for Commerce and Industry Nirmala Sitharaman.

The two sides are planning a year-long series of events to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties.

"Both prime ministers are keen that the occasion should be celebrated in a way that further expands the canvas of the relationship," India's PMO said.

gnirmala@sph.com.sg

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