A senior Singaporean Minister has said that at a time when the world seems to be more fractured, the values of equality, tolerance and democracy enshrined in the Indian Constitution are more important than ever.
Speaking at the 68th Republic Day celebrations organised by India's High Commission, Trade and Industry Minister Lim Hng Kiang said on Thursday, "as India forges ahead on its path to development, Singapore stands ready to collaborate wherever we can".
"At a time when the world seems to be growing more fractured and fractious, the values of tolerance, equality and democracy enshrined in the Constitution of India are more important than ever. These are values Singapore shares as a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural country," he said. Lim said India has continued to make bold strides towards greater economic and social development.
"In this spirit, and on behalf of the government and people of Singapore, I offer my heartiest congratulations to the government and people of India on this joyous occasion," he said at the reception attended by government officials, diplomats and business leaders. "Initiatives such as 'Clean India', 'Digital India', and 'Skill India' have captured the public imagination, and are now being translated into tangible changes on the ground. Driven by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for companies to 'Make in India', India has grown to become the 6th largest manufacturing economy in the world," Lim said.
Lim said the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 2017, perhaps the most sweeping economic reform in a generation, will make good on longstanding calls for 'one nation, one tax' and add to India's positive momentum. "These changes, combined with India's young and rapidly urbanising workforce, will help India become one of the world's fastest growing economies this year," he said. He also reaffirmed the good government-to-government ties between the two countries, saying these were kept up through regular high-level exchanges.
Modi's official visit to Singapore in November 2015 was followed by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's visit to India last October. "The friendship between our countries goes deeper, rooted in cultural links that go back centuries and people-to-people connections that endure till today," Lim said.
Bilateral trade has almost doubled since the two countries signed the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement in 2005. Now it stands at 21.7 billion Singapore dollar (USD 15.2 billion). Singapore's investments in India have grown nearly 20 times over that same period, to 19.4 billion dollar (USD 13.5 billion).
"Singapore is now one of the top foreign investors in India, with quality investments in ports, logistics, manufacturing and an array of other sectors," Lim said. In 2015, Singapore and India relations were elevated to a Strategic Partnership. "Now into its second year, this Strategic Partnership serves as the roadmap to guide cooperation in key areas ranging from defence, finance, aviation and the arts to smart cities and skills development," he said. During his visit, Prime Minister Lee witnessed the launch of a Centre for Excellence in Tourism Training in Udaipur, and now Singapore was also exploring a collaboration to develop skills training in North East India. Another area in which Singapore is working closely with India is smart cities and urban solutions.
"Our companies helped masterplan Andhra Pradesh's new capital city Amaravati, and are now bidding to develop the core of the city," Lim said, adding that India was one of the first countries to offer its hand in friendship to Singapore when it gained independence. "In the nearly 52 years since then, our relationship has grown from strength to strength. With this solid foundation in place, I am confident our close bilateral relations will continue to thrive for generations to come," he said. Meanwhile, India's High Commissioner to Singapore Jawed Ashraf underlined Singapore's role as India's foremost partners in the development quest.
"In India, we say that Singapore is a nation that is perfecting the present, even as its eyes are firmly fixed on the future. Just as Singapore's achievements show that size is no barrier to the scale of a nation's success, our relationship demonstrates that difference in size - of five million (in Singapore) and 1.25 billion (in India) - is no constraint to the strength of a partnership," Ashraf said.
"Our political relations are smooth and strong. And there is no area of human endeavor and national aspirations in which we are not building close and productive partnerships. "It is a relationship that truly fits the character of a Strategic Partnership. And, so does our shared commitment to take it to higher levels. "For India, Singapore is the leading source and destination for investments, and a key partner in many areas of our development priorities," Ashraf added.