Singapore sets sights on deepening ties with India

  • Rahul Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 07, 2014 10:28 IST

Singapore is seeking to deepen bilateral cooperation with India, particularly in sectors as defence, urban management and infrastructure development, ahead of the two countries marking the 50th year of establishing diplomatic ties next year.

After the recent visits of Singaporean foreign Minister K Shanmugam and defence minister Ng Eng Hen to New Delhi, another top leader will be arriving in India on Sunday to hold talks with the NDA government, which is making fresh efforts to provide strategic depth to India’s Look East policy.

Singapore is considered to be the pivot of the Look East policy and is the country’s largest trading partner among ASEAN nations.

Emeritus senior minister Goh Chok Tong, who was Singapore’s prime minister for 14 years, is expected to meet PM Narendra Modi and also visit Hyderabad to make a pitch for developing Andhra Pradesh’s new capital on the lines of Singapore during his five-day tour.

External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had visited Singapore in mid-August followed by defence secretary RK Mathur travelling to that country last week to bolster defence cooperation.

Singapore makes use of Indian military bases to train its armed forces due scarcity of land and airspace under special defence cooperation pacts. The two sides are now looking at cooperating in the fields of information technology and research and development in the defence sector. Presidential visits from both countries are also on the cards.

Other areas of cooperation include the smart city project, urban rejuvenation, speeding up air and maritime connectivity, port development and skills development.

The two countries favour freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, which China seeks to control and where the Communist neighbour is locked in intractable disputes with several countries that claim parts of the sea.

A Singaporean firm had in 2009 emerged as a strong contender for supplying its 155mm Pegasus lightweight howitzer to India. But the firm, Singapore Technologies Kinetics Ltd, was among the six companies blacklisted by the UPA government in 2012 for 10 years, following a bribery scandal involving former Ordnance Factories chief Sudipto Ghosh. A source said the issue was discussed “in passing” during Ng Eng Hen’s visit last month.

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