Originally Published 2015-02-19 00:00:00 Published on Feb 19, 2015
The recent New Delhi visit of Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relations, was very much fruitful to give a boost to Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj's 5s vision and enhance the skill development and cultural ties between the countries.
Singapore President's visit: A boost to Swaraj's 5s vision

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Singapore, its President Tony Tan Keng Yam paid a four-day state visit to India from February 8. He met Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj. Mr. Tan was successful in engaging dialogue with Indian leaders to further promote and enhance the partnership between the two nations. Although the visit mostly focused on reinvigorating cultural bound, it also proved beneficial to promote the 5s vision of India.

India and Singapore, as pluralistic societies, share similar concern about the challenges posed by terrorism and fundamentalism. Therefore, both the countries found it mutually beneficial to evolve a broad framework of security cooperation. Realising the potentials which existed between the countries, they took one of the major steps of signing a Free Trade Agreement plus the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement nearly a decade ago -- in June 2005. Since then, trade between India and Singapore has been increasing steadily, reaching a record of $19.4billion in 2013-2014 as compared to $4.2 billion in 2003-2004. Accounting for 12 % of India's FDI, Singapore is the second largest contributor of foreign investment and largest trading partner in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).1 With presence of almost 6,000 Indian companies, Singapore is one of the major hubs for Indian investment overseas.

The relation between two countries have progressed and evolved into a broad and multi faceted category covering political, economical and cultural aspects, with institutional frameworks of dialogue and vibrant people -to-people contact. As there is immense potential for further cooperation between the counties, India's External Affairs Minister Ms. Sushma Swaraj had earlier envisaged the 5s vision to further promote engagements in trade, speeding up connectivity, urban development and water management for smart cities, skill development and large scale engagement with Indian states. The present visit of Singapore's President was very much fruitful to give a boost to Ms. Swaraj's vision and enhance the skill development and cultural ties between both the nations.

To commemorate the golden jubilee of bilateral relations, Mr. Tan inaugurated the Peranakan Exhibition themed "The Peranakan World: Cross Cultural Art from Singapore and the Malacca Straits" at the National Museum in New Delhi. The exhibition was very effective in displaying the unique artifacts and cultural tradition indigenous to Singapore with fusion of Chinese, Malay and Indian elements. It is for the first time that a Peranakan exhibition has travelled to India to showcase the rich heritage which has the essence of educating people about the art displaying technology and thereby leading to cultural exchange. Among the several events which were seen during the visit, the book published by the Institute of South Asian Studies on Singapore- India was also launched. With much emphasis given on boosting cultural ties, Mrs Mary Tan as a part of Singapore's SG50 also presented 300 Singapore themed books to the National Library of India which is a mix blend of books on Singapore biodiversity, history, economic development, literature and arts and culture.2 Surely, these contributions will give a new beginning and engaging connections with Singapore's culture and update India more on Singapore.

The visit not just focused on the cultural aspects but saw a deeper discussion and promises on various other arenas including smart cities, skill development, and connectivity and encouraging linkages with northeast India. Two of the major focus areas of Indian government under Mr. Narendra Modi's leadership have been skill development and smart cities. To support the aspirations of the people of India and priorities of Mr.Modi, Mr Tan has proposed to provide the plan for the smart cities development of the new Andhra Pradesh city by sharing Singapore's concept of "Smart City" which is based on the principles of "Liveability and "Sustainability". 3 For this, he also proposed a study visit of Indian officials to Singapore to learn about the experiences of the Singapore's officials involved in the development of smart cities. This will also include sharing of experiences in science and technology and space. Further, to improve the skill development facilities in India, the plan to set up an institute in Delhi and North East sates of India was discussed. The meeting also focused on broadening cooperation in fighting terrorist activities.

Cementing the 50 years of the diplomatic relations, India and Singapore have achieved proficiency in their associations amidst the presence of challenges. This has not just led to the interaction at country level but also at state level. This has brought tremendous fortunes for both the countries and exchange of views. For instance, Singapore has recommended strengthening its connectivity with ASEAN, for India to fulfil its Make in India plan. According to their view point, need of the hour is to go for " Act East" policy which will provide a platform for India to engage with The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership ( RCEP) and its free trade partners to integrate economically with the region and thereby improving connectivity with the region. This symbolizes the historic milestone achieved by these countries. Truly, the combined efforts and planning have brought the bilateral linkages to such a juncture that further opening up will enhance their partnership manifold.

1.    http://www.business-standard.com/article/economy-policy/singapore-president-visit-to-celebrate-diplomatic-ties-115020501349_1.html

2.    http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/president-tony-tan-makes/1645790.html

3.    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/opinion/interviews/singapore-would-like-to-contribute-towards-indias-success-story-lim-thuan-kuan/articleshow/46162189.cms

(The writer is a Junior Fellow at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

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