Bilateral relations between India and Singapore are substantive, comprehensive and warm. To enhance mutual understanding between the intelligentsia of the two countries, the India-Singapore Strategic Dialogue was launched in 2007 after a meeting of the two foreign ministers. It is co-sponsored by the Institute of South Asian Studies of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the Confederation of Indian Industry/Aspen India.
The fifth dialogue, held in Singapore last month, was successful. During the dialogue, there was a timely discussion of the changes in Myanmar. India and Singapore felt there was scope for them to co-invest and work together in helping Myanmar in its historic transition.
Towards the end of 2012, a commemorative summit will be held to mark the 20th anniversary of the India-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Dialogue Partnership in New Delhi. The two countries share a similar worldview and common values. They also face similar challenges and opportunities. Both face threats arising from terrorism and extremism. As secular and pluralist societies, India and Singapore share a commitment to multiculturalism, ethnic and religious harmony. They have market economies, support free trade and investment.
The close bilateral relations are characterised by regular high-level contacts and the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement signed in 2005. Singapore is India’s largest trading partner in Asean and is the second-largest investor in India. It is also an important financial and logistical hub for 5,457 Indian companies.
Defence cooperation has been increasing since the October 2003 Defence Cooperation Agreement. This is reflected in high-level policy dialogue and joint military training activities.
Intellectual and academic cooperation between the two countries has also multiplied manifold. The Indian Centre for Cultural Relations has established a chair in Indian studies at the NUS. The people-to-people ties and the civilisational dimension of India-Singapore relations are important. It was symbolised by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the former Prime Minister of Singapore — Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong — jointly unveiling a marker and bust of Jawaharlal Nehru in November 2011, on the Asian Civilisations Museum Greens. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew will visit India next month.
The prospects for Indo-Singapore relations are bright. The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor offers exciting possibilities for investments in the infrastructure sector, particularly in the creation of new townships and industrial nodes. Another area of potential cooperation is in the field of skill training and, in particular, the establishment of an Indo-Singapore pilot project in this sector, within a broader framework of understanding between the two governments.
The five rounds of discussions of the Indo-Singapore Strategic Dialogue have confirmed the historic connections and our commitment to building a common future based upon prosperity, security and connectivity.
Satinder K Lambah is a special envoy of the Prime Minister of India and Tommy Koh is ambassador-at-large at the ministry of foreign affairs, Singapore. The views expressed by the authors are personal.