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Modi's Singapore Visit: Laying the Foundation for a Robust, Modernisation-centred Strategic Partnership
Siddharth Singh
2015-12-06
Region : Asia, SouthAsia, India,
Issue : Security, Terrorism,
The special status that Narendra Modi places on Lee Kuan Yew as leader of an Asian nation made his second visit as Indian prime minister to Singapore special. In March this year, PM Modi had attended Lee’s funeral and described him as a “lion among leaders” and “a global thinker who saw things ahead of others”.
The admiration which PM Modi has for Lee was built over earlier encounters when the former was Gujarat chief minister and the latter was minister mentor of Singapore. Like the founder of Singapore, who perfected the art of conducting foreign policy that would contribute greatly to Singapore’s economic benefit, Modi, too, is spearheading India’s external relations to make the outside environment as conducive as possible to resolve India’s internal bottlenecks.
Singapore is a pivotal partner not just for India’s ‘Act East’ policy but, in a larger sense, a motor of India’s ascent. PM Modi is a firm believer in transfer of capital, knowhow and best practices from around the world, which can then be adapted to Indian conditions. He emphasized on the two important aspects of the ‘strategic partnership’ — smart cities and skill development — during his visit.
Singapore has already designed the masterplan for the development of the new Andhra Pradesh capital Amravati. During his visit to Singapore, PM Modi tried to extend public policy cooperation to remake the face of urban India. His tour of Singapore’s Institute of Technical Education (ITE) was to concretise its contribution to the ‘Skill India’ programme of equipping youth from socio-economically underprivileged backgrounds with vocational knowledge for self-employment.
Indian chambers of commerce have identified science and technology as well as education as two sectors where there is vast potential for Singapore to invest in India. In his entire visit, PM Modi’s developmental agenda aimed at to tap Singapore’s leading attributes in these fields.
Until 2005, Singapore accounted for only 3% of FDI entering India. Today, that figure has gone up to 10% and Singapore is the second-largest investor in India in past few years. Indian companies have also made a beeline to open offices in Singapore thanks to its tax-friendly environment and its unparalleled advantage of hosting other global corporations which are based in the city-state.
PM Modi’s stated ambition is to scale up investment and trade, capitalising on Singapore’s unique attribute as a hub for payments, logistics and trans-shipment of Indian exports to the ASEAN region. One of the high-profile events which was scheduled during PM Modi’s Singapore visit was his address to the Indian community at the Singapore Expo Centre.
Indian Singaporeans, a majority of them being Tamils, comprise 9% of the population and have often overachieved in terms of representation in government and parliament in the Lion City. PM Modi not only tried to reconnect them to India’s economic growth saga but also to recognise and strengthen their positions as positive influences in Singaporean society.
PM Modi while delivering the Shangrila lecture in Singapore said that oceans, space and cyber world should not become "new theatres of contests" but be the avenues of "shared prosperity" and offered to work in this direction. He talked 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. The statement is significance as tensions are growing over South China Sea with the US now getting involved and China warning it to keep away.
Singapore is a nation that has become a metaphor for reality of dreams. The lack of resources is no constraint for inspiration, imagination and innovation. Singapore's success has become an aspiration for all the Indians and, in turn, India has also been seen as the hope for a more peaceful, balanced and stable world.
During the summit level meeting, the Prime Ministers of both the countries affirmed that India and Singapore enjoyed long traditions of friendship based on mutual trust and respect and a shared history. Against the backdrop of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between India and Singapore, the two Prime Ministers signed a Joint Declaration establishing a ‘Strategic Partnership’ between India and Singapore to elevate bilateral relations to a higher level. Both nations reviewed the security cooperation through revival of the Joint Working Group on Intelligence Cooperation on Combating Terrorism and Transnational Organised Crime in order to intensify cooperation on information and intelligence sharing on terror networks and work together to share experiences on dealing with the growing phenomenon of radicalisation.
The bilateral business and commercial linkages constitute key drivers of the wide-ranging India-Singapore partnership. In this regard, Singapore Prime Minister Lee applauded the policy measures and economic initiatives introduced by Prime Minister Modi and noted that specific initiatives launched by Prime Minister Modi such as ‘Make in India’, ‘Digital India’, ‘Skill India’, ‘Clean India’, ‘Affordable Housing for all by 2022’, ‘Namami Gange’ and ‘Smart Cities’ offered significant collaborative commercial opportunities for businesses and industries of both countries.
Noting that India and Singapore have been together at many crossroads of time, PM Modi said, "We stood together at the dawn of freedom...Singapore success has become India's springboard to the world and gateway to the East. We have comprehensive defence and security cooperation. Singapore is the biggest investment source." Starting from the first IT park in Bengaluru, the partnership has now moved to the newest city of Amaravathi, the new capital of Andhra Pradesh.
With defence cooperation, especially in the maritime maritime and counter-terrorism realms, also being upgraded, it is not an exaggeration to claim that PM Modi has laid the foundation for a robust, modernisation-centred strategic partnership.
Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of FORE INDIA

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