Straits Times: Singapore and India foreign ministers reaffirm close ties

NEW DELHI • Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, yesterday met his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj to exchange views on both bilateral and regional issues.

They also reviewed cooperation in defence and trade, among other areas.

Both ministers co-chaired the fifth meeting of the India-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee for bilateral cooperation.

"Both sides discussed a wide range of bilateral issues of shared interests and mutual concerns," said a statement from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

The MEA said the two ministers also reviewed upcoming high-level exchanges, commemoration of the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Asean and 25 years of the India-Asean dialogue partnership.

Dr Balakrishnan, in a Facebook post, described Singapore as a longstanding supporter of India's growth and success, also noting that the two countries shared a strategic partnership underpinned by substantive and multi-faceted cooperation.

He posted: "Our account with India is in good shape. Despite our size, Singapore is India's second largest foreign investor, accounting for 16 per cent of its cumulative FDI (foreign direct investment) from 2000 to 2016. Other significant areas of collaboration are Skills Development and Smart Cities.

"We're glad to note that our development of the new capital city of Andhra Pradesh, Amaravati, is progressing well."

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been keen on tapping Singapore's expertise, particularly in skills training and in urban infrastructure, both priority areas for his government.

Dr Balakrishnan, who is on a two-day visit to India, will today travel to the north-east where he and Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal will witness the signing of agreements related to the proposed North East Skills Centre (NESC) in Guwahati. He will also be hosted to lunch by Mr Sonowal.

The NESC is the third Singapore-linked skills centre being set up in India following those in Delhi, the capital, and Udaipur, the top tourist destination in Rajasthan state.

According to the MEA, the skills centre is being set up with Singapore's assistance under Mr Modi's Skill India Initiative, which is targeted primarily at millions of India's youth.

Dr Balakrishnan yesterday also met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who later tweeted that he "had a good interaction with Dr Vivian Balakrishnan".

Nirmala Ganapathy