Modi pays tribute to Singapore leaders, hails close bilateral ties

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at the 37th Singapore Lecture at the Shangri-La Hotel yesterday, attended by an audience of more than 1,000, including students (far right) from DPS International School, an Indian international school in
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at the 37th Singapore Lecture at the Shangri-La Hotel yesterday, attended by an audience of more than 1,000, including students from DPS International School, an Indian international school in Singapore. Mr Modi noted that the key to Singapore's success was "the quality of human resources, the belief of a people and the resolve of a nation". It is with the same vision that India is pursuing its own transformation, he said.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at the 37th Singapore Lecture at the Shangri-La Hotel yesterday, attended by an audience of more than 1,000, including students (far right) from DPS International School, an Indian international school in
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking at the 37th Singapore Lecture at the Shangri-La Hotel yesterday, attended by an audience of more than 1,000, including students (above) from DPS International School, an Indian international school in Singapore. Mr Modi noted that the key to Singapore's success was "the quality of human resources, the belief of a people and the resolve of a nation". It is with the same vision that India is pursuing its own transformation, he said.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Paying fulsome tribute to Singapore and its leaders who, he said, had inspired many of his own initiatives, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the island as a "metaphor for the reality of dreams".

Explaining his growth strategy, he said one set of policies he is implementing in India was to empower its people. The other was to create the conditions in which enterprise flourishes, opportunities expand and the potential of its citizens is unlocked.

"We are investing in our people through skills and education, special focus on the girl child, financial inclusion, sustainable habitats, clean rivers and smart cities; and access to basic needs of all our citizens - from water and sanitation to power and housing."

Mr Modi's Singapore Lecture, organised by the Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute, was titled "India's Singapore Story".

Calling Mr Lee Kuan Yew a "personal inspiration", Mr Modi said Singapore's founding father believed in India's potential at home and its role abroad more than many in India. This was why he had travelled to Singapore in March to attend the funeral service for Mr Lee.

"In the observance of a day's mourning in India, we wanted to honour a true friend and a very special relationship," he said.

Sketching how old ties had evolved, he said Singapore became India's springboard to the world as it embarked on economic liberalisation. "No one worked harder for it and no one deserves more credit for it than Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong," Mr Modi said. "He re-connected India to Singapore and the region."

Mr Goh had famously spoken of sparking a "mild India fever" in 1994, three years after India opened its economy to foreign investment and freed state controls on industry.

Ties have strengthened since that call.

India and Singapore also enjoy comprehensive defence and security relations, Mr Modi pointed out. And Singapore, which has 440 weekly flights to India, is the world's most connected nation to India.

"Our partnership will expand as our economies grow and the framework of trade and investment improves further," he said.

Mr Modi noted that the key to Singapore's success was "the quality of human resources, the belief of a people and the resolve of a nation".

It is with the same vision that India is pursuing its own transformation, he said.

And Singapore is already a major partner in that dream, he said, with a stake in several areas such as developing skilled human resources, planning smart cities, cleaning rivers and developing clean energy.

"Singapore's success in overcoming odds leads me to seek a partnership that addresses the challenges of the 21st century - from food and water to clean energy and sustainable habitats," he said.

Today, Mr Modi and PM Lee will seek to further strengthen the bilateral relationship by signing a joint declaration elevating the ties between Singapore and India to a strategic partnership, and release a joint statement detailing how the partnership will be fulfilled.

The strategic partnership will broaden and deepen ties across various sectors, including defence relations, economic and cultural cooperation, skills development and capacity building, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement said on Sunday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2015, with the headline 'Modi pays tribute to S'pore leaders, hails close bilateral ties'. Print Edition | Subscribe