NEW DELHI: India and Singapore yesterday expressed satisfaction with their bilateral ties.
Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, who is on his first official visit to India, held talks with his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna. He also met Law Minister Salman Khurshid.
Talks between the foreign ministers touched on coming up with an agreement on vocational training for India, a country where 70 per cent of the population is under the age of 35.
'We are very pleased to work with India in this area because everyone knows India's demographic dividend and that it would be extremely helpful for India and the world, and Asean, for young people to have the necessary skills,' said Mr Shanmugan. He hopes an agreement on the issue can be signed during Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's visit to India in July.
Describing their talks as 'fruitful', Mr Krishna said both countries were interested in looking for 'new areas of cooperation' but did not go into details.
Singapore helped India become a full Asean dialogue partner in the 1990s. As a result, India will host an Asean-India commemorative summit in Delhi in December.
Singapore is India's largest trade and investment partner in Asean, with trade touching US$17.44 billion (S$22 billion) in 2010-11, according to official Indian statistics. More than 80 financial institutions based in Singapore are registered with the Securities and Exchange Board.
The two countries are reviewing their Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca) to further shore up ties.
Mr Shanmugam noted that India and Singapore enjoy a very long-standing relationship, underpinned by political, economic and strategic ties. He noted that economic ties, in particular, took off after the Ceca was signed in 2005 and added that 'a quick and expeditious conclusion' to the review being done by the two countries would benefit both sides 'very substantively'.
Mr Krishna called the Ceca, which includes agreements on trade in goods and services, and investment protection, a 'cornerstone' of India-Singapore ties.
Mr Shanmugam, who is on a four-day official trip, will also visit Assam and Gujarat, where he will meet chief ministers Tarun Gogoi today and Narendra Modi tomorrow. He will call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tomorrow. Other areas discussed in talks included defence cooperation and cultural cooperation.
Mr Shanmugam also responded to a question on the slowing Indian economy.
'If you compare that with what the rest of the world is doing... we are talking about a substantive economy growing at 7 per cent and tremendous opportunities,' he said. -- Straits Times