Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday pitched for strengthening ties with Singapore, saying the relation with the island nation contributed to a strategic shift in India’s Look East policy.
The prime minister’s speech at a lunch hosted by his counterpart Lee Hsien Loong underlined the key role of the island nation in India becoming a major player in the Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) grouping.
“It was the opening of our relations with Singapore which led to a strategic shift in India’s foreign and economic polices and which today has evolved into our Look East policy. Singapore opened new horizons for India,” Singh said.
Singapore played a vital role in India becoming a sectoral dialogue partner with ASEAN in 1992 and a full dialogue partner in 1996.
Singapore is India’s biggest trade and investment partner in ASEAN. The bilateral trade is pegged at US$30 billion; there are more than 3,800 Indian companies in Singapore as the city-state has emerged as a key off-shore financial hub for Indian corporates.
“Singapore’s rapid transformation and economic growth model is a beacon of hope in the uncertain world we live in today. You serve as an example not only for Asia but also for the world at large. Your investments in human resources, education and infrastructure are examples worthy of emulation,” Singh said.
The one-day visit, however, was high on symbolism and revived memories of the role Jawaharlal Nehru, who saw Singapore becoming the focal point for forging Asian unity.
Singapore on Sunday declared India's first prime minister as a “friend to our shores” with Singh unveiling a bust of Nehru at the Asian Civilisation Museum on the banks of the Singapore river along with Emeritus senior minister Goh Chok Tong.
So far, Singapore has honoured only four other personalities in this fashion—English writer of Polish origin Joseph Conrad, father of modern Vietnam Ho Chi Minh, Filipino revolutionary leader Jose Rizal and Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.