New book tells story of Singapore-India ties over 50 years

NEW DELHI - From Sir Stamford Raffles' arrival in Singapore to joint cooperation between Singapore and India in a range of projects, a new volume aims to be an authoritative source on the evolution and future of Singapore-India relations.

The 200-page coffeetable book was launched on Tuesday by President Tony Tan Keng Yam, who is here on a four-day state visit until Wednesday to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations forged since Singapore's independence in 1965.

The book, titled Singapore and India: Towards a Shared Future, is the culmination of two years' work by four researchers from the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), led by ISAS senior research fellow See Chak Mun, who was also a former high commissioner to India.

While it will not be for sale, the volume is available for download from ISAS' website at http://www.isas.nus.edu.sg/SG-IND_FA_LR_230115_1.pdf.

ISAS director and history professor Tan Tai Yong, who is Executive Vice President (Academic Affairs) at the Yale-NUS College, said the volume is intended to be a good reference on Singapore-India relations, backed up by authoritative research, interviews and plenty of photographs.

"The book basically traces (the relationship between the two countries) from the early days of the pre-colonial period right up to the present, and is presented not in dry and terse academic format but in a way that will appeal to a range of people," said Prof Tan, who is also a Nominated Member of Parliament.

"Our researchers have worked very hard scouring Singapore, India and elsewhere to find pictures that you will be seeing for the first time in this volume," he said.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi both wrote forewords in the volume. In their remarks, both leaders looked back to how the relationship is centuries-old, stretching even before colonial times, and have only grown stronger since Singapore's independence.

Singapore and India can look back on 50 years of strong and enduring friendship with great satisfaction, the Prime Ministers of both countries wrote. They also expressed confidence about the future of the partnership.

"Since our independence in 1965, the ties between our two nations have continued to deepen," wrote Mr Lee.

"Our social, cultural religious and familial links are constantly being reaffirmed by such things as the shared love for Kollywood and Bollywood films, or by the work of Indian artisans and sculptors invited (to Singapore) to build and restore local Hindu temples," he added. Kollywood is the popular name for the Tamil film industry, and Bollywood is the popular name for the Hindi film industry.

India's warm ties with Singapore has also led to its greater engagement in Southeast Asia to the benefit of the region, wrote Mr Modi.

"Over the past fifty years, we have built a comprehensive relationship that has contributed to prosperity in our two countries and stability and cooperation in our region," said Mr Modi.

"Singapore has emerged as one of the foremost partners for India's economic transformation and a springboard for India's deeper political and economic engagement with Southeast Asia, which is at the heart of India's Act East policy," he added.

Mr Lee cited how bilateral trade has tripled since India signed its first Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with Singapore in 2005. Today, many Indian companies base their regional or global operations in Singapore, while Singapore companies in areas like port development, aviation and logistics are active in India.

"As we celebrate the first 50 years, Singapore and India are already looking ahead to the next 50," he wrote.

yanliang@sph.com.sg