thailand-sushmaIt’s the Act East season in India. Ahead of the India-ASEAN summit in Delhi which will mark the silver jubilee of this burgeoning partnership, India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has embarked on a three-nation tour of Southeast Asian countries, including Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.
The minister’s ASEAN trip will focus on deepening political, defence and economic ties with these countries that are dynamic economies and have a significant Indian-origin population.
Swaraj reached Bangkok, the first stop of her tour, on January 4 where she held wide-ranging talks with her Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai. Issues relating to connectivity, security and cultural cooperation figured prominently in the talks. Thailand will be the coordinator country for India-ASEAN relations in 2018.
Indonesia will be her next stop, where she will co-chair the 5th meeting of India-Indonesia Joint Commission with her Indonesian counterpart, Ms. Retno Marsudi. They will also jointly inaugurate the second meeting of ASEAN-India Network of Think Tanks. Recently, the ‘India Culture Week’ concluded at the central public square in Bandung on December 31 with a grand Indian music and dance performance that was attended by more than 3,000 local citizens and art lovers in Bandung.
The highlight of her Singapore visit will be the Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) of ASEAN countries. Themed “Ancient Route, New Journey: Diaspora in the Dynamic ASEAN-India Partnership”, the two-day conference will see top leaders and businessmen discuss issues like start-ups, cyber security and disruptive technologies in manufacturing. Writers’ and film festival, art and photo exhibition, along with Ayurveda and yoga workshops, will also be major attractions.
In a unique gesture, India has invited the leaders of all 10 ASEAN countries to participate in the Republic Day celebrations, which underscores the growing salience of the region in India’s foreign policy calculus.
Connectivity, business, anti-terrorism and maritime security have been key themes dominating India-ASEAN dialogues in recent times. The centrality of ASEAN in New Delhi’s Act East policy was the focus in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address at the ASEAN-India and East Asia Summits held in November in Manila and was also demonstrated at the ASEAN India Connectivity Summit (AICS) that India hosted in December. Amid China’s growing assertions in the region, ASEAN countries are increasingly looking at India to play a bigger role in shaping an inclusive regional architecture.


Modi Singapore diaspora

Modi Singapore diaspora

SINGAPORE: Addressing a 5000 strong Indian diaspora in Singapore on November 24, Prime Minister Narendra Modi emphasised on the need for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to develop India. Hailing the Indian diaspora for their contribution to their respective host countries, Mr Modi said, “The way you merged into every nation you went has been wonderful”. “The entire world is reposing a lot of faith in India today and the reason behind this is not Modi, but the Indians settled abroad,” added Mr Modi.

Emphasising on FDI, Mr Modi said that FDI is First Develop India for him and it is essential to develop the country. “There is an increase in FDI since we have taken office,” said Mr Modi. He also paid tribute to the architect of modern Singapore and the first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and stated that there is a lot India could learn from Singapore. Mr Modi spoke about the renewed confidence in India by investors and said the world looks towards India with great faith.

Here are some excerpts from his speech to the Indian diaspora in Singapore on November 24:

  • The festival of Deepawali just went by. But I was told Little India has kept the light alive and extended it to a week. My gratitude to all Singaporeans on this. I have come to Singapore earlier. But this is different.
  • The way you merged into every nation you went has been wonderful
  • Today the world looks towards India with great faith. You people played great role in this
  • India is the nation which not only follows but also shows the world the idea that “the whole world is one family”
  • I came to Singapore to pay my last respects to Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of Singapore
  • Singapore is an example of a place where generations saw the nation being taken towards development over 50 years
  • India has a lot to learn from Singapore. The world is changing, should India not change too?
  • FDI for the world is “Foreign Direct Investment”, but for me it is “First Develop India”
  • Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is needed to First Develop India
  • There is an increase in FDI since we have taken office
  • For me railways is not just a mode of transportation. It is also a vehicle for the transformation of India
  • Today we have entered the global market with our Rupee Bond, until now it was only dollar, pound or gold
  • GIAN – Global Initiative of Academic Networks, enabling foreign faculty members to teach in Indian institutions.
  • India’s currency must gain more respect at the world level
  • We want energy but without damaging the environment
  • In last 18 months we have entered into uranium supply arrangements with a number of countries – a sign of trust in India.
  • Solar can become the best source of clean energy for India. Hence our proposal for an International Solar Alliance.
  • We will always be receptive to the needs of our citizens living abroad
  • Declaration by UN of June 21 as the International Day of Yoga brought the world together to celebrate yoga as holistic health care.
  • Should a nation of 125 crore people rely on other nations for defence equipment? Why can’t we make it?
  • The world has become interdependent. No nation can afford to remain isolated.


Modi Singapore eco convention


Modi Singapore eco convention

Showcasing India’s manufacturing potential to the world, Prime Minister Narendra Modi left no stone unturned at the India-Singapore economic convention on November 24 to attract potential investors to India.

Making a strong case for India, Mr Modi presented a report card of the initiatives and reforms undertaken by his government in the last 18 months. He also spoke about the potential of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the mega trade deal between ASEAN and its dialogue partners.

Speaking about the India-Singapore relations, Mr Modi emphasised that Singapore is India’s 10th largest trade partner globally, the second largest in ASEAN, and also pointed out that outward FDI from India to Singapore has also gone up. Addressing the potential investors at the economic convention, Mr Modi focused on India’s potential as a manufacturing hub. “With the Make in India initiative, we are working on all fronts to become a global manufacturing hub,” Mr Modi said.  He underlined that the interest of foreign investors in India has gone  up tremendously, but also said  there were a number of regulatory and taxation issues which were adversely impacting on their sentiments. He reassured the investors, saying his government has taken very decisive steps to remove many of long the pending concerns. 

“The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), comprising ASEAN and its six Dialogue Partners, is another potential opportunity for our companies,” Mr Modi said. The RCEP has been under negotiations for a while and is expected to reach a final conclusion in 2016.

Citing a major reform in India where the marginalized would be benefited, Mr Modi spoke about the  opening of 190 million new bank accounts. Through them, we are trying to ensure direct transfer of benefits to the poor and said this targeting is also bringing discipline in Government expenditure. 

Mr Modi also spoke about huge potential for creation of infrastructure and production of goods will not be available in any other country. “More importantly, no one place on the earth can offer the customer base on such a massive scale,” Mr Modi added. 

“We need to provide a huge push to manufacturing which has stagnated at around 16% of the GDP for several decades. This share must reach around 25% in the short and medium term. With this in view, we have launched the “Make in India” initiative,” he said. “We are working on all fronts to make India a global manufacturing hub. We are creating the global skill pool to establish a modern economy with a world class manufacturing sector.” India has entered into agreements with the US, Israel and Russia to bolster defence manufacturing in India under the ‘Make in India’ initiative’.

Emphasising on the importance of climate change ahead of the Conference of Parties (COP-21) summit in Paris, Mr Modi reassured investors about India’s commitment to combat climate change. “Our commitment to mitigate the dangers of climate change do not arise from Economics or Politics. They also do not arise from Fear or Favour. They arise from our fundamental belief that nature is our Mother. Nature provides and sustains our life; hence we must nurture it. It is an article of faith. I assure the Global community that we will do more than required. We will stretch ourselves to do more than what we can normally do,” Mr Modi said.

Modi Singapore convention

Modi Singapore convention

SINGAPORE: Pitching the India story to potential investors in Singapore, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asserted that India is working towards becoming a global manufacturing hub. Addressing the India-Singapore Economic Convention on November 24, Mr Modi spoke about the reforms undertaken by his government in the last 18 months and the renewed confidence of investors in India.

Here are the excerpts from his speech at the India-Singapore Economic Convention on November 24:

  • I had excellent meetings with Singapore leaders today morning. We have concluded the Strategic Partnership which takes the relationship to a new level of engagement. We have set a high level of ambition for this relationship.
  • Singapore is also an important and valuable friend of India in our global outlook.
  • We regard Singapore as an essential ally in the implementation of our Look and Act East Policy.
  • I am fully aware of the important role Singapore has played in the implementation of this policy.
  • I look forward to working with Singapore in a bigger way.
  • Historical ties and cultural proximity are our assets
  • Singapore is our 10th largest trade partner globally, second largest in ASEAN
  • Outward FDI from India to Singapore has also gone up
  • Singapore and India can work together in several positive areas
  • With the Make in India initiative, we are working on all fronts to become a global manufacturing hub
  • You have the habit of precision; India has the scope for expansion;
  • You are fond of going vertical; India’s development is both vertical and horizontal
  • You are an exciting incubator; India is a vast laboratory.
  • Singapore is involved in the master plan of Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh
  • Singapore an important, valuable friend of India in our global outlook
  • Money has to reach the marginalised. We opened 190 million bank accounts and aim for direct transfer of benefits to the poor
  • We are trying to harness India’s development potential through policies and our people
  • We have introduced the GST Bill in the Parliament and are hopeful to roll it out in 2016
  • India is among the most open economies for FDI. with most sectors on automatic route and entry and exit conditions relaxed
  • The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), comprising ASEAN and its six Dialogue Partners, is another potential opportunity for our companies.
  • The hall mark of our strategy is good governance which is participative and policy driven.
  • Our commitment to mitigate the dangers of climate change arise from the belief that nature is our Mother. We will do more than required
  • In the last 18 months, the run-ways for the take-off of the economy have been made
  • Many people of India are under 35. Their energy, enterprise & skill will guide India’s transformation
  • We have witnessed massive growth in the number of start-ups in the recent past. Some of these have begun to challenge established global players. To tap this energy fully, we have recently launched the Start up India Campaign.
  • Reforms are happening in a big way and these reforms are to transform systems
  • I am here to invite you to India in a bigger way



Modi Singapore lecture

Modi Singapore lecture

In the backdrop of increasing geopolitical tensions in Asia-Pacific and increase in terrorist activities worldwide, the two issues of terrorism and South China Sea remained the focus of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech in Singapore. India will lend its strength to ensure freedom of navigation in regional waters, Mr Modi said on November 23 at the Shangri-La hotel, as he outlined his government’s Act East Policy set against a resurgent domestic economy.

The most critical need in Asia was to uphold and strengthen the rules and norms of collective behaviour built not on the strength of a few but on the consent of all, Mr Modi said.

“India will work with countries in the region and beyond, including the United States and Russia, to ensure that our commons – ocean, space and cyber – remain avenues of shared prosperity, not become new theatres of contests,” he said, while delivering the 37th Singapore Lecture.

The lecture was attended by a standing room-only audience of more than 1,000 that repeatedly applauded the Indian leader.

“Even as we celebrate the past 50 years, we want to build a partnership for the next 50 years. Tomorrow, the two Prime Ministers will be signing a strategic partnership that will not only elevate relations but also chart the way forward in the coming decades,” Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said.

Amid a standoff between China and some East Asian nations over South China Sea, Mr Modi said, oceans, space and the cyber world should not become ‘new theatres of contests’ but should be the avenues of ‘shared prosperity’ and offered to work in this direction.

During the lecture Mr Modi spoke about how India and China have kept their border region peaceful and stable despite the ‘unresolved issues’, including the boundary question between the two countries. “In the flux and transition of our times, the most critical need in this region is to uphold and strengthen the rules and norms that must define our collective behaviour,” he said.

“We must all come together, in East Asia Summit and other forums, to build a cooperative and collaborative future, not on the strength of a few, but on the consent of all,” Mr Modi said.

“India will work with countries in the region and beyond, including the US and Russia, our East Asia Summit partners, to ensure that our commons – ocean, space and cyber – remain avenues of shared prosperity and not become new theatres of contests,” Mr Modi said.

The statement is significant as tensions are growing over South China Sea with the US now getting involved and China warning it to keep away.

Focusing on terrorism, Mr Modi said: “The world must speak in one voice and act in unison. There will be political, legal, military and intelligence efforts. But, we must do more.” Mr Modi stressed on the need to delink terrorism from religion. Countries that support terrorism must be held accountable, Mr Modi added.

Some of the other issues that Mr Modi discussed during the course of the lecture included the importance of Southeast Asia and ASEAN. Mr Modi paid tribute to the architect of Singapore and the first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. He also spoke about achieving a concrete outcome in Paris at the global climate change summit. “We are a few days away from Paris, where we must achieve concrete outcome, in accordance with the principles of UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. This is especially important for our region, particularly the small island states.”

Speaking about the importance of Asia, Mr Modi spoke about the potential in the region and stressed that we need to work hard to realise the vision of an Asian century.


singapore-leeIndia’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined world leaders at the funeral for Singapore’s founding father and poured tributes to “a global thinker” who transformed the city-state within a generation.
Describing Singapore as a key pillar of India’s Act East policy, Mr Modi underlined that Lee believed in India’s potential and was personally a source of inspiration for him.
“The passing away of H.E. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew marks the end of an era. He was among the tallest leaders of our times. Singapore’s transformation in one generation is a tribute to his leadership,” Mr Modi said.
Imodi-singapore-funeralndia has declared a day of public mourning for Singapore’s beloved leader. The adulation and affection for Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore cut across the spectrum as thousands of Singaporeans braved blistering rain on a soggy Sunday morning (March 29) to pay homage to the man they esteemed and loved.
“In India, we deeply valued his friendship and his support for India’s economic progress and global role. He believed in India’s potential more than many of us did,” said Mr Modi.
The development-focused Indian prime minister is known to be a great admirer of Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore’s transformation model. The Modi government has been proactively enlisting the partnership of Singapore in his declared mission of building 100 smart cities in India.
“Personally, he was a source of inspiration for me. His achievements and thoughts give me confidence in the possibility of India’s own transformation,” said Mr Modi.
Singapore has been a robust supporter of India’s enhanced role in ASEAN and in the extended region, which has now crystallized into Act East policy under Mr Modi’s watch.


singapore-presidentThink smart, and Act East. This twin mantra of the Narendra Modi government will be telescoped during Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam’s visit to India which will focus on spurring collaboration in smart cities, skill-building and enhancing two-way investment.

50 Golden Years

Singapore president’s February 8-11 trip to India marks a milestone and is part of the ongoing celebrations of 50 years of mutually nourishing diplomatic ties between the two countries. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Singapore in August last year kicked off the golden jubilee celebrations, which was followed by a succession of visits by the chief ministers of Indian states, including Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, and Rajasthan.

The last presidential visit from Singapore was in 2003 when President Nathan came to India. In between, there have been a spate of high-profile visits with the prime ministers and ministers of India and Singapore travelling to each other’s country.

Betting on India Story

singapore-pmThe reform-minded India’s prime minister has created much excitement among Singapore’s political leadership and the business class. In May 2014, after the change of guard in New Delhi following the national elections, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong congratulated Mr Modi on his election victory on Twitter and Facebook. Mr Modi hailed Singapore as “a valued friend” and expressed confidence that bilateral ties will become stronger.  Singapore has sent some of its senior ministers to India in the last few months.

Business Boost

Singapore was one of the first to respond to India’s ‘Look East’ Policy of expanding economic, cultural and strategic ties with Southeast Asia countries to boost its standing as a regional power. The two nations signed the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) in 2003, the first such pact India signed with an ASEAN country. The trade pact has proved to be a game-changer in transforming the economic relationship between India and Singapore.

singapore-sushmaSingapore is India’s major trading partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean). Bilateral trade surged to $12.51 billion in 2013-2014, which is more than India’s bilateral trade with Russia.

Over the last 14 years, Singapore has accounted for a little above 12 per cent of total FDI in India. The economic dynamism and world-class infrastructure of the city-state has acted as a magnet, with Singapore becoming India’s top destination in terms of overseas investments. Indian companies thirsting for new opportunities have ploughed in around 33 plus billion in Singapore. Around 6,000 Indian companies who are registered in Singapore.

Smart Cities & Skills

Ahead of the trip, New Delhi has struck an upbeat note on the future trajectory of India-Singapore relations.We look forward to the visit of the President of Singapore to India. It is our hope that this visit will lead to further strengthening of our bilateral relations, our economic interactions, and our cooperation with Singapore in terms of our regional and international matters in international organisations and regional organisations,” said Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson of India’s external affairs ministry.

Smart cities and skills collaboration are the twin pillars of the new phase of cooperation between India and Singapore. Prime Minister Modi sees Singapore as a key partner in his pet project of building 100 smart cities in India. The forthcoming presidential visit will see some progress in firming up the contours of smart city cooperation. Singapore is also expected to be an important partner in the new Indian government’s skill development mission.

“One is utilising Singapore’s skills in terms of skill development in India. Singapore is setting up an institute in Delhi, and we are working with Singapore Government to have a similar effort in the North-East of India,” said Akbaruddin.

– Vikas Lather contributed inputs for this article.

Also see: Smart Cities, Smart Diplomacy


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