State visits, festivals to celebrate Singapore-India ties next year

SINGAPORE - AN EXCHANGE of state visits and cultural festivals are among the events that will take place in Singapore and India next year to celebrate 50 years of ties.

The commemorative activities kicked off with a cultural performance and the launch of a logo for the celebrations at the National University of Singapore's University Cultural Centre on Saturday, which was attended by Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam and India's new External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

Mrs Swaraj, who assumed the office in May this year, is in Singapore for a two-day introductory visit that ended on Saturday.

She called on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, and also had a meeting with Mr Shanmugam.

In a joint statement from both foreign ministries, the ministers agreed that the main highlight of the 50th anniversary celebrations will be the exchange of state visits by President Tony Tan Keng Yam and India's President Pranab Mukherjee next year.

The celebrations will also feature a Festival of Singapore in India and the Year of India in Singapore.

The two foreign ministers agreed to work towards a first bilateral meeting between PM Lee and his counterpart Mr Narendra Modi, who assumed office in May, at the "earliest possible opportunity".

They also agreed to explore further areas of collaboration.

These are: Scaling up investments and trade; speeding up air and maritime connectivity and coastal development; smart city development and urban rejuvenation, including water and waste management; skills development and capacity building; and state focus to strengthen business and cultural links, the joint statement said.

Preliminary work has already been carried out by officials, and study visits and consultations are being planned in the coming months.

During Mrs Swaraj's meeting with Mr Lee at the Istana, he noted that bilateral ties were underpinned by high-level and regular political engagement between the two governments, Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Business and trade linkages are increasingly robust, and both sides are actively exploring new areas of collaboration, the statement added.

Mr Lee also welcomed India's strategic partnership with Asean, and encouraged India to continue playing an active and constructive role in the region and supporting Asean's centrality in the various regional groupings.

Mr Goh and Mrs Swaraj exchanged views on recent developments in India and the Asia-Pacific region. He said that he looked forward to meeting Mr Modi during a working visit to India next month.