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Vivian Balakishnan Urges Closer India-Asean Ties

1/7/2018 6:37:38 PM
written By : Team India Se Print

We need to “build more bridges, not walls”, said Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivivan Balakrishnan, stressing the need for greater economic integreation and cooperation between India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

India today accounts for only 2.6 per cent of Asean’s total trade and 3 per  cent of the tourist arrivals in the region, he said.

He was speaking at the Pravasi Bharati Divas in Singapore on January 7. It’s been a decade since Singapore last hosted the event, adding: “I would like to warmly congratulate (India’s Foreign Minster) Sushma Swaraj for the resounding success of this event. Yesterday we ran out of seats.”

Noting the event celebrates the contributions of the Indian diaspora, he recalled his own roots. “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. The audience burst into applause as he recalled his diaspora heritage.

 In the 13th century, Singapore was part of the Majapahit empire, an Indianised kingdom in Southeast Asia, he recalled. Singapore is a “pur” (an Indian word for a town or city) like “Jaipur, Nagpur,” he added to laughter from the audience.

 Indians helped build Singapore under British rule – the Istana and Raffles Place were among the landmarks and places built by them. He recalled the contributions of both unsung Indians, such as those who built the roads and buildings, and eminent ethnic Indians such as the former president SR Nathan and the Sri Lankan Tamil S Rajratnam who composed Singapore’s National Pledge.

He stressed the need to take advantage of this cultural, “civilisational” heritage to forge closer ties between India and not just Singapore but the rest of the region.

India and Asean combined have a quarter of the world’s population and a GDP of US$4.5 trillion, he said. India will be the world’s most populous country, exceeding China’s population, by 2025 and at the same time be the world’s fifth largest consumer market. By 2030, Asean will be the world’s fourth largest single market. Greater economic integration and cooperation will benefit both.

We are living in a time of uncertainty, he said. Globalisation and the assumptions that shaped the world for the past 70 years – liberal economics, global integration– are being questioned.

We have had 70 years of relative peace because one superpower underwrote the global world order, he said, but times are changing.  

Will the future see “a world with a zero sum game where might is right” or “a multipolar world, characterised by interdependence and cooperation”, he asked. “If we recognise that we are now in a multipolar world, and India as one of the key poles of this multipolar world – if India and the other superpowers of the future agree to construct an interdependent world, a world with more bridges and integration, then a new golden age awaits us,” he said. “My hope, my dream, is that we will make the right choice. “



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