Singapore, India to celebrate 50 years of ties in 2015

Mr Khurshid (front, left), accompanied by Mr Shanmugam, viewing Singapore's skyline from the 50th-storey Skybridge at the Pinnacle@Duxton yesterday. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Mr Khurshid (front, left), accompanied by Mr Shanmugam, viewing Singapore's skyline from the 50th-storey Skybridge at the Pinnacle@Duxton yesterday. -- ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Cultural exchanges and presidential visits part of year-long programme

India and Singapore will hold a year-long celebration as part of plans to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations in 2015.

Cultural exchange programmes and reciprocal visits by the two countries' presidents are also being planned, their foreign ministers told reporters at a doorstop interview yesterday.

"We will have an India Festival in Singapore and a Singapore Festival in India," Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam said after a meeting with his Indian counterpart Salman Khurshid.

Details are being worked out and will be finalised by next year, he added.

"We want to use the 50th anniversary... as an important milestone to look back and see how much we have achieved," said Mr Khurshid, who arrived on Wednesday for a two-day visit.

India was among the first countries to establish diplomatic ties with Singapore after the Republic became independent in 1965.

A Singapore50 (SG50) committee has been tasked with planning events for Singapore's golden jubilee celebrations.

Bilateral ties between India and Singapore have expanded over the past few decades in areas like defence, the economy and services. Bilateral trade reached US$24 billion (S$29.8 billion) last year.

Mr Shanmugam said many Indian companies see Singapore as a great place to do business in or as a base to venture out into the region, while many Singapore firms have upcoming projects in India.

"These are all tangible items of progress that show where this relationship is going," he added.

The ministers spoke to the media after co-chairing the Third Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) Meeting, which was held in Singapore for the first time.

The venue was also novel - the Pinnacle@Duxton. The two ministers took a stroll along the Skybridge to enjoy a panoramic view of the Singapore skyline.

At their meeting, the two sides discussed their collaboration and cooperation in areas such as defence, tourism and trade.

They also agreed to tap into the vast potential in other areas of bilateral cooperation such as urban development.

Mr Khurshid expressed admiration for Singapore's water management and sewage treatment expertise, which he feels could benefit a rapidly urbanising India.

"We want to combine our understanding of technology with your expertise in techniques of management to provide models that will be useful in both countries," he said.

Mr Khurshid called Singapore an important stepping stone in India's larger relationship with the Asean region and beyond.

"We see this as a valuable relationship. It's great to do business with Singapore," said the minister.

He paid a courtesy call on President Tony Tan Keng Yam in the afternoon and met Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen before he left Singapore.

rupsk@sph.com.sg