SINGAPORE - Singapore and India will soon launch a third round of discussions on a key bilateral economic pact and will consider expanding their air services agreement in view of growing traffic.
Speaking at a press conference after holding wide-ranging discussions at the Istana on Friday (June 1), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said they had agreed to deepen economic ties and build on defence cooperation.
Announcing that the second review of the economic pact, Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), had been completed, Mr Lee said this showed bilateral economic ties were substantial and the two countries wanted to do more together.
Mr Modi said both leaders had agreed that the conclusion of the review was not the target but rather the means to an end.
"Our officials will soon begin discussions on upgrading and reforming this agreement," Mr Modi said.
It was not clear if progress had been made in some contentious issues like greater access for India's banks and software professionals in Singapore.
The two nations are also looking to expand their air services agreement last retooled in 2013.
Mr Lee said: “The PM and I discussed the possibility of expanding our air services agreement, and agreed that we should start talking about a revised air services agreement because the traffic growth has been very strong.”
He noted that last year, more than 4 million passengers had travelled between the two countries. This year, the growth has continued strong and it has gone up another 14 per cent in the first quarter.
“An upgrade of this agreement will boost the business and tourism sectors, and bring our two peoples closer together,” Mr Lee said.
The two leaders on Friday also witnessed an exchange of Memorandums of Understanding in numerous fields, including the training of public service officials, cyber security, and narcotics control.
PM Lee then hosted an official lunch for Mr Modi.
Earlier in the day, the Indian leader made a courtesy call on President Halimah Yacob after a welcome ceremony at the Istana where he was given a guard of honour.
After his arrival on Thursday, Mr Modi addressed a business conference at Marina Bay Sands Convention Centre where he called for a deepening of economic ties between Singapore and India.
Trade between Singapore and India jumped 14.6 per cent last year to S$25 billion. Singapore’s investments in India rose from S$22.7 billion in 2014 to S$36.3 billion in 2016.
Mr Modi is due to visit Nanyang Technological University on Friday afternoon and round up the day with a keynote address at the opening of the annual Shangri-La Dialogue on regional security and defence issues.