India should exercise leadership on the economic front by remaining open to trade in the face of growing protectionism, said Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs, Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman.
Speaking on a panel at the Raisina Dialogue 2019, an annual multilateral conference on geopolitics and economics held in New Delhi, Dr Maliki said on Thursday: "As the fastest growing economy in the world, and a market of over one billion people, India's actions are closely watched. By remaining open to trade and pressing on with economic integration, India will send a strong signal that it remains open for business. I think that is very important."
He also welcomed India's efforts to sort out its trade issues including with China as part of the negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a mega trade agreement being negotiated between the 10 member states of Asean and India, China, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan.
"As one of the largest economies in the grouping, India's efforts have a significant impact on the conclusion of this agreement. So India's moves to resolve bilateral trade issues with other RCEP partners like China is a positive step that will help bring us closer to the finalisation of this agreement," he said.
India and Singapore have close economic and security ties that grew after Singapore helped India become a full dialogue partner of Asean in the 1990s.
Singapore has urged India to do much more in Asean and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has indicated India is keen on boosting ties with the region.
Dr Maliki said Singapore supported India's vision of playing a more substantial role in South-east Asia, in areas from trade to defence, and on the strategic front.
"From South-east Asia's perspective, there is certainly much more business to be done. In 2017, Asean's trade in goods with India stood at US$73.6 billion (S$99.4 billion) while the figure for China, Japan and South Korea ran upwards of US$150 billion each. So much more can be done between India and South-east Asia," said Dr Maliki.
He said Singapore looked forward "to greater practical security cooperation between India and South-east Asia, particularly through the inaugural edition of the trilateral maritime exercise among India, Singapore, and Thailand in the Andaman Sea this year".