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Speech by External Affairs Minister at Inauguration of Year of India in Singapore (​August ​16, 2014​)​

August 16, 2014

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Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law Mr K Shanmugam,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I bring you greetings from the people and Government of India.

I am always delighted to be here as Singapore is not only our closest partner in our enhanced Look East Policy but also constantly re-inventing and restructuring itself. We are at a juncture in our relations where we can achieve anything if we open up our imaginations.

It gives me great pleasure to be with you today, to jointly inaugurate the Year of India in Singapore with Foreign Minister HE Mr K Shanmugam, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries. I am happy that this event is taking place in August, when Singapore celebrates its National Day on 9th and when India celebrates its Independence Day on 15th.

The commemoration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries is not just a celebration of what we have achieved so far, but also an opportunity to push the envelope to find and develop new areas to deepen our engagement. We shall present year-long activities on the rich and varied cultural diversity of India. We shall also use the occasion to advance our relations in economic engagement, defence and security cooperation and people-to-people contacts. This event is also to recognise the large Indian community of Singapore, who have benefited from its vibrant atmosphere and have contributed to its growth and development.

India and Singapore share civilizational connections which have strengthened over time. We recall the connections during the Chola period, experiences of the Srivijaya era and the colonial period. There were exchanges of monks, scholars, traders and artists. There was exchange of political ideas and philosophies, of trade and commerce and of cultural influences. We learnt from each other and enriched our lives. This ancient connection, across the seas, was a connection not merely between us, but was also a connection to the people of the wider region. We gradually grew attached to each other through culture and tradition, science and technology, economy and trade, and we created for ourselves an environment for cooperation, peace, progress and prosperity.

In the contemporary world do we seek to recreate that ancient recipe for closer connection between our peoples and within the region, based on mutual trust and mutual benefit.

India and Singapore, as pluralistic societies in a buoyant region, seek a partnership based on political, economic and cultural cooperation, with institutional frameworks of dialogue and vibrant people-to-people contacts. What is unique about this relationship is that it never rests on its successes; it strives constantly to be ahead of the curve, to be innovative and effective, and to add value and efficiency.
Today, Singapore is India's largest trading and investment partner in the ASEAN region. Over 6000 Indian companies operate in Singapore and there is also a large Singapore presence in India. There is a rising tide in the flow of people and services and technologies. We also share convergent perspectives on many global and regional issues. Engagement with ASEAN is at the core of India's 'Look East Policy' and Singapore is our gateway to ASEAN.

The future holds even greater potential.

We would like to share a vision to build India-Singapore ties on a 5 S plank –
Scale up trade and investments,
Speed up connectivity,
Smart cities with focus on urban development & water management,
Skill development and
State focus to promote engagement with Indian States.

It is gratifying that Singapore is not only our largest trading partner in ASEAN, but also one of the largest sources of FDI globally and one of the largest destinations of outward FDI. Nevertheless, scope to scale up investments in India by Singapore exists. We should look at scope of venture capital for innovations and for cooperative projects in third countries.

We look forward to Singapore companies to speed up connectivity and infrastructure projects in India, particularly, along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), the Chennai-Bangalore Industrial Corridor and the North-East. Singapore could develop a virtual city or a "little Singapore” somewhere along the corridor.

Connectivity in all its dimensions- physical, institutional and people-to-people is a priority for us. There has been impressive growth of air connectivity between our countries. It would be mutually beneficial to launch direct air-connectivity between Singapore and North East, particularly Guwahati. North-East is our gateway to the ASEAN hinterland. Education, tourism and business are key links. I wish to see greater flows between peoples and institutions to enrich this relationship.

Singapore's expertise in Smart Cities, urban planning and water management strategies offer a valuable learning experience for India. We shall work for setting up greenfield Smart Cities and for urban rejuvenation. Our experts shall identify the priorities and we shall coordinate its timely delivery.

Singapore's experience in skill development can be invaluable for us given our large requirement. The World Class Skill Development Centre in Delhi, set up by Singapore, is a model for similar centres in the rest of the country, including the North-East.

A State focus in our engagement with Singapore could harness the enormous economic potential and provide an opportunity to showcase the cultural diversity of Indian States.

I see our emerging relations as one in which the cultural content can be enhanced considerably and can become one of the new pillars of our robust relationship. It gives me particular delight to be at the inauguration of the Year of India in Singapore today to recall some of our areas of close cooperation. Singapore has played a key role in the revival of the Nalanda University, which is a symbol of our historical linkages and an abiding example of Asian cooperation. I am delighted that Singapore will be contributing the Library to the new Nalanda University. I am pleased to learn that the Asian Civilisations Museum will host a major Buddhist Art Exhibition, curated by the Indian Museum, Kolkata, which showcases our ancient Buddhist exchanges. I am also pleased to announce that we shall be gifting a bust of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose to the India Heritage Centre, to be established by the Singapore authorities. We proudly recall the contribution of Netaji to our independence movement and his close connections with your beautiful city. During the year-long activities, we shall try to open windows to India which we hope will leave the viewer wanting more. This will be an important pillar of our emerging relations.​

​​I look forward to enjoying tonight's performance with you all. I wish the 50th anniversary celebrations great success and look forward to an even stronger partnership with Singapore and its wonderful people.
Thank you.

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