India-Singapore Ministerial Roundtable: Strengthening bilateral ties

Published on Sep 27, 2022 01:20 PM IST

The article has been authored by Ananya Raj Kakoti and Gunwant Singh, scholars of international relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Recently, the inaugural India-Singapore Ministerial Roundtable (ISMR) was held in New Delhi on September 17, 2022. (ANI) 
Recently, the inaugural India-Singapore Ministerial Roundtable (ISMR) was held in New Delhi on September 17, 2022. (ANI) 
ByHindustan Times

The close relationship between India and Singapore is founded on strong cultural, commercial, and people-to-people connections, and has a history that dates back a millennium. In modern times, post-independence, India was one of the first countries to recognise Singapore in 1965. In 2005, both countries signed the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), which paved the way to elevate this relationship into a Strategic Partnership in 2015, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the bilateral relationship. Shared values and approaches, economic opportunities, and convergence of interests on key issues form the bedrock of strong India-Singapore relations. Both countries engage regularly on the political and strategic front, with economic and technological ties growing extensively. India and Singapore show convergence on a variety of issues of international importance and are part of numerous groupings like G20, Commonwealth, IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association), East Asia Summit, and IONS (Indian Ocean Naval Symposium).

Recently, the inaugural India-Singapore Ministerial Roundtable (ISMR) was held in New Delhi on September 17, 2022. This maiden session was attended by deputy prime minister (PM) and finance minister Lawrence Wong, foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan, trade minister Gan Kim Yong, and transport minister S Iswaran, on the Singaporean side. The Indian delegation was represented by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, external affairs minister S Jaishankar, and commerce minister Piyush Goyal. It is a new platform that seeks to “deepen existing cooperation and identify opportunities for mutually-beneficial collaboration in new and emerging areas".

ISMR was envisioned by PM Modi and it is a pioneering initiative that is a testament to the unique India-Singapore bilateral ties. According to deputy PM Wong, this platform can further accelerate the regular engagement between both sides. In addition, it can pave the way for coordination in new areas of partnership in the near future.

During the roundtable, both India and Singapore recognised a number of new areas, such as food and energy security, green technology particularly green hydrogen, digital connectivity, and skills development, for cooperation, moving forward. The interests of both countries converge in various areas and this provides an opportunity for greater cooperation between the two. For example, Singapore, which is the leader in the fintech sector, sees India as a potential partner given India’s push for digitalisation and its explosive growth in the start-up space. There is a wide potential for collaboration in fintech — and this area will be further benefited by the signing of a new agreement between the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the International Financial Services Centres Authority of India.

Singapore has recently unveiled plans to restructure its financial sector by 2025. This is with the objective of strengthening it against climate change by mobilising resources to aid sustainable financing and green fintech. This will play a major role in supporting the region’s transition to net zero. Singapore sees India as an instrumental player in the region to fight climate change and cooperation between the two on sustainable financing can go a long way to fight climate change.

In April 2022, Lawrence Wong, 49, the current finance minister, was chosen as leader of the People's Action Party’s (PAP) fourth generation (4G) team, and named deputy PM, thereby paving the way for him to become Singapore’s next PM, after Lee Hsien Loong. However, it is unclear when he will assume the position. Prior to this Wong headed Singapore’s Covid-19 task force and was successful in steering away from the crisis. He will continue to hold his current finance portfolio while serving as deputy PM.

After his visit, Wong, in an interview reiterated how Singapore sees India as a strategically important partner and believes it to play a major role in the ever-evolving regional Asian cooperation infrastructure. He also praised India for intensifying its cooperation with various regional countries, especially in the East. This was under its ‘Look East’ policy in the 1990s, which was renamed to ‘Act East’ policy by PM Modi.

Wong also highlighted India’s growing economic prowess in the global economic framework and believes India to take a larger role in international affairs of importance. With India taking the presidency role for G20 next year, it will play a far more significant leadership role in tackling global issues, like climate change, terrorism, pandemic response, and sustainability; and Wong believes that their collaboration will benefit both the nations as Singapore too, shares a common vision.

The article has been authored by Ananya Raj Kakoti and Gunwant Singh, scholars of international relations from Jawaharlal Nehru University.

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