1/8/2018 6:07:49 PM
|written By : Team India Se|
Should auld acquaintance be forgot? No. Long-standing India-Singapore relations, going back to colonial times and even earlier, are getting even closer. That was evident at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Singapore on January 6 and 7 when ministers and other dignitaries from both countries stressed the need for greater integration between India and Singapore and India and the Association of Southeast Nations (Asean), which is currently chaired by Singapore.
Indian companies form the largest contingent in Singapore, having doubled from about 4,000 in 2009 to more than 8,000 today, said Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chean, at the gala dinner on January 7. In comparison, more than 7,500 Chinese companies are registered in Singapore, he noted. Calling for greater economic integration between India and Asean, he said this could be facilitated by Singapore.
India’s Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj stressed the Importance of Singapore. “Singapore has also been a political, economic and intellectual bridge between India and Asean,” she said. “It is now one of the major strategic partners in the gateway to the East. Not just Singapore, but the whole Asean in is on the rise, in partnership with each other and rest of the world."
Singapore, of course, has special cultural and trade ties with India that go back not just a few centuries but more than 1000 years, said Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, recalling his own Indian heritage. “As a person whose ancestors and great-grandparents left India more than a century ago, it’s a very personal reminder that this is an ancient route that they took. But in a poignant way, I always remember that I would not be standing here before you, and I would not have had the privilege to travel to India, if they had not made the fateful decision to take this journey,” he said to strong applause from the audience on January 7.
Singapore’s Minister for Trade and Industry S Iswaran, who served as chief executive officer of the Singapore Indian Development Association (Sinda), spoke at the event on the opening day, on January 6. “Singapore’s role as a gateway for Indian businesses coming into Asean and for the region’s businesses going into India is reflected in the strong cohort of Indian and Asean businesses that are present in Singapore,” he said.
Indian start-ups had an opportunity to pitch to investors and interact with local and regional start-ups at the India-Singapore Entrepreneurship (InSpreneur) conference on January 5. Indian and Singapore ministers alike stressed the importance of greater cooperation in digital technology.
Nitin Gadkari, India’s Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, and Assam’s Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal also spoke at Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.
Full credit to High Commissioner HE Jawed Ashraf
Full credit to this well-attended event goes to the Indian High Commission in Singapore led by the High Commissioner, HE Jawed Ashraf who has worked relentlessly for the past few months to make this a success. Ashraf, who has been here, for a little more than a year, has managed to bring in a set of dynamic and influential personalities from the diaspora, who continue to contribute significantly to the growth of India and Asean.
Opening the plenary session, HE Javed Ashraf was unstinting in his praise for both the ministers – Iswaran and Gadkari -- who have been key in forging infrastructure collaboration between the two countries.
“We are fortunate to have with us S Iswaran,” he said. “There are few ministers in the world as invested in engaging with India or who understand India and the nuances of competitive and cooperative federalism in India the way he does.”
About Gadkari, who flew in for the event despite pressing problems in his home state of Maharashtra, Ashraf had equally fulsome praise. “The optimism and confidence about India’s economic future both in India and the world stem largely in part from what minister (Nitin Gadkari) is doing to transform India’s infrastructure and at speed, safety and quality that is simply unprecedented. He has made India the best infrastructure story in the world. And it is entirely in character with his commitment, boundless energy and generosity of spirit that he has come here all the way for us for just one hour, despite a sudden compelling need to be in his home state.”
Ashraf, a 1991 batch Indian Foreign Service officer, is considered by his peers one of the finest minds in the service, the Economic Times reported last year when he was tipped to be the envoy to Singapore. A former joint secretary in the Prime Minister's Office, he has also served in Germany, Nepal and the United States.
He stressed the importance of Singapore and the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD). “Singapore is the window to heritage of the timeless ties between India and South-east Asia,” he said. “The PBD’s theme, ‘Ancient Route, New Journey’ is a motif for our connected histories, common destiny and collected endeavours. This (PBD) is different. As our External Affairs Minister said, it should also be a platform for advanced Asean India ties and invest the huge wealth of the diaspora’s talent for the benefit of India and Asean.””