Singapore set for ride on ‘fast train India,’ to boost business ties

shanmugamSingapore, a leading partner of New Delhi in Southeast Asia, does not want to miss a ride on the “fast train” that promises to be the India growth story. With the Modi government planning to set up 100 new cities, Singapore’s Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam will be looking to explore new avenues of cooperation in urban development and to ramp up economic ties with India.

Shanmugam will have a string of high-profile engagements in New Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai, including wide-ranging talks with India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the Indian capital. He will also call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discuss the next phase in India-Singapore partnership which could pivot around closer cooperation in city management and bolstering urban infrastructure. The talks will focus on forging links in diverse areas, including public sector governance, education and skills development.

Ahead of the trip, Singapore’s High Commissioner to India Thuan Kuan struck an upbeat note. “India is now like a fast train and everyone wants to get in,” Kuan said after a meeting with India’s Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu last week. The visit by Singapore’s foreign minister has coincided with that of French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius’s trip to India, with more high-profile visitors like US Senator John McCain on the way, signifying the growing global confidence in the India story after the installation of the reform-friendly Modi government over a month ago.

Singapore, which has consistently batted for a bigger role for India in the ASEAN, has emerged as a leading source of FDI into India, with investments of around $5.98 billion last year. Bilateral trade surged from US$ 8.8 billion in 2005-06 to US$ 21.3 billion in 2012-13. India signed its first Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with India. The pact integrates agreements on trade in goods and services, investment protection, and economic cooperation in fields like education, intellectual property and science & technology.

Singapore has a special resonance for Prime Minister Modi, who is known to have forged a special personal relationship with former Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, whom India hosted in 1994 as the chief guest for the Republic Day celebrations.

Singapore is home to 5.4 million Indians, which comprise nearly 9 per cent of the population of the city-state.

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