Many areas of collaboration for India and Asean

Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), S. Iswaran addresses delegates at the Asean-India Convention at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, on Jan 6, 2018.
Singapore Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry), S. Iswaran addresses delegates at the Asean-India Convention at the Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre, on Jan 6, 2018. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Both can forge closer ties especially in infrastructure, innovation and digital economy, says Iswaran at conference

There are great opportunities for collaboration between India and Asean nations, especially in infrastructure, innovation and the digital economy, that will help forge greater economic integration and closer cooperation.

Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran, speaking in a panel discussion in front of political leaders, businessmen and academics from Singapore, other Asean nations and India, said: "The centre of gravity in terms of global growth has moved to Asia largely because of the Indian, Asean and Chinese growth aspects.

"So we have now a unique opportunity to pool our resources."

The discussion was the highlight of day one of the two-day Asean-India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas conference, one of the events being held to commemorate 25 years of dialogue partnership between the regional bloc and India. Asean is the fourth-largest trading partner of India, while India is the seventh-largest trading partner of Asean. Singapore assumed the chairmanship of Asean this year.

The event, being held in Singapore for the second time in 10 years, is meant to showcase the Indian diaspora's contributions, and is also an opportunity for businessmen from both regions to network.

During his speech, Mr Iswaran highlighted India's plan to develop smart cities as an area that Asean businessmen and companies could participate in. The project in Amaravati, the upcoming capital city of Andhra Pradesh state where planners from Singapore helped devise the masterplan, is "an example of what we can do together".

The digital economy and e-commerce are another area of "common priority" as they serve as an enabling tool for small and medium-sized enterprises to access markets that were once out of their reach, added Mr Iswaran.

His fellow panellists were Mr Nitin Gadkari, India's Minister of Road Transport, Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, and Tun S. Samy Vellu, Malaysia's special envoy to India and South Asia on infrastructure at its Prime Minister's Office. The panel was moderated by Ambassador-at-large Gopinath Pillai.

Mr Gadkari, who is spearheading India's drive to overhaul its infrastructure, said transport links both within the country and with its neighbours were being enhanced, slashing travel times and improving connectivity - efforts that are key to India's development.

"India is the fastest-growing economy, and there are a lot of opportunities to invest... and you are all welcome," said Mr Gadkari to applause.

Mr Samy Vellu stressed the importance of economic cooperation between India and Asean, as they account for almost a third of the global population and a combined gross domestic product of US$3.8 trillion (S$5 trillion), a figure that would make it the third-largest economy in the world.

Alongside weighty panel discussions were lighter events such as yoga workshops, a film and writers' festival and an art exhibition.

Conference participant Ranjani Rajan, head of financial services at CPA Partnership, said the event would help forge stronger links between India and Asean countries.

About 4,000 people, including Singaporean and Indian leaders and dozens of Indian business people, are attending the conference.

It culminates in a gala dinner today with Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean and Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj delivering speeches.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 07, 2018, with the headline 'Many areas of collaboration for India and Asean'. Print Edition | Subscribe