'Singapore is India's best friend in South Asia': Minister

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Gurgaon, Jan.17 : Singapore is India's best friend in South Asia at the strategic level said Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development Youth and Sports, and Second Minister for Information Communications and the Arts, Singapore.

He was speaking in the luncheon session- "India Singapore Relations: Roadmap to the next level" at the Partnership Summit 2008 on Thursday in Gurgaon, organised jointly by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Government of India, Government of Haryana and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Our relations have strong foundation based on historical, economic and social ties, he said. He attributed the revival of the 'love affair' between the two countries since early nineties to the efforts of CII.

Balakrishnan said that India is Singapore's third largest trading partner now. Since the signing of CECA (Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement) between the two countries in June 2005 there has been a double digit of growth of both exports and imports.

He praised the Indian industry for investing heavily in Singapore, and said that there are around 2800 Indian companies in Singapore at present. Indian industry can use Singapore as a launch pad to enter the markets of Far East. He said he firmly believes that India can be as competitive as China in manufacturing. Last year there were 659,000 tourists flow from Singapore to India, he said. Indian tourists are among major buyers in Singapore he informed.

On the review of the CECA between the two countries, he said that there was further liberalisation of trade. He assured there is 'no shortage of interests and investment' from Singapore to India. On the issue of opening up of financial sector and granting 'Qualified Full Banking' Status to Indian banks in Singapore, he said these are short-term practical problems and assured that in the long run there will be greater presence of both sides' financial sector in each other's jurisdiction.

He highlighted other areas where both countries can collaborate more, like in legal and healthcare services, education, research and development, tourism and construction services. He urged the audience that initiative at the government level alone is not sufficient and there should be other tracks of engagement like CII, India Singapore CEO Forum etc. as well. 'All I want to say is that we want to be part of your success', said the minister.

Earlier, Tarun Das, Chief Mentor, CII and Chairman, Haldia Petrochemicals Ltd invited the minister to the address the audience and said that the present relations between the industries of the two sides dates back to 1993, when the then Prime Minister of Singapore Goh Chok Tong met representatives of Indian industry and initiatives were taken to boost our economic relations.

He declared that India and Singapore is going to start a 'Strategic Dialogue'. The first meeting for the strategic dialogue is to be held in May this year. He declared that CII is going to hold 'India at 60' in Singapore by March end this year. Talks have started for setting up of 'Skills Development Institute' in India by Singapore. He said that a proposal have been made to Singapore for setting up of an Eco-city in India, similarly to the Eco-city built by Singapore in China.

ANI

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