Singapore, Apr 5: An India-Singapore Strategic Dialogue is to be instituted in a Track 2 diplomacy mode to examine new areas of bilateral cooperation and to exchange views, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said at a gala dinner here on Friday evening. The dinner held to mark the first day of the Incredible India @ 60 campaign, saw Prime Minister Lee emphasising that India-Singapore relations are based on mutual respect and common interests. He said the close bilateral ties between Singapore and India was reflected in the fact that the foreign ministers of both countries are to meet later this month to oversee progress in bilateral projects.
The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement of the two countries has given an impetus to trade and investment links, as trade grew 20 percent last year, and over 750,000 Indian tourists visited Singapore, he added. Lauding India's 'historic transformation' to a path of resilient and sustained growth, Lee said that its economic vitality and dynamism had created new opportunities for the world. South East Asia is fortunate to be neighbour to the two fast-growing economies of India and China, he commented.
Quoting Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, Lee said that India has a long march ahead. However, he reiterated that India's determination, confidence and dynamism would help it continue to progress. The examples of Mittal Steel and Tata Motors are visible signs of how India is integrating with the world economy, he added. "The relationship is blossoming at all levels," concluded Lee.
Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath, in his address, said that the Incredible India @ 60 campaign should be seen as India celebrating its engagement with the world. India is now a big importer from the world, and a huge market. It is making large investments overseas and creating jobs. After the Incredible India @ 60 campaign in New York last year, there could be no better place than Singapore to carry it forward. India wishes to engage with Singapore because of its institutions and systems, he added.
Nath also launched the new website of the CII India Business Forum. This is a dedicated platform to enrich the partnership of Indian and Singapore businesses, and evolve new ways to expand it.
Dr. S. Jaishankar, High Commissioner of India to Singapore, said that the Incredible India @ 60 campaign celebrates 'Incredible India' becoming 'Credible India', with its world class companies, brand names and, most of all, its democratic framework. Singapore is a key global gateway for India, and has played a major role in encouraging India's Look East policy and its participation in the East Asia Summit dialogue. Holding the campaign in Singapore is "our way of saying Thank You," he ended.
Sunil Bharti Mittal, President, CII, welcomed the gathering, and said that India has transformed itself from a nation of shortage to a nation of abundance. Income will rise 35 times by 2035, he stated, and India will become a continent of consumers. Then Prime Minister of Singapore Mr Goh Chok Tong had started the 'India fever', and now the two countries are engaging at a strategic and high level. The dinner was also attended by S Iswaran, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry, and leaders from the Singapore corporate world. The CII delegation is led by President CII, Mr Sunil Bharti Mittal, and includes more than 20 top corporate leaders from India.
The dinner was rounded off by a fashion show unveiling trendy yet traditional garments from the house of Meera and Muzaffar Ali. Beginning with wispy white dresses in cottons, the show exhibited glowing earthy colors of India's age-old textile heritage in Mughal designs and golden block prints. It ended with a stunning ensemble of black saris and dresses, embellished with new-age prints and embroidery.
Day Two of the Incredible India @ 60 campaign will be inaugurated by India's Minister of Tourism and Culture, Ambika Soni, at the Plaza Singapura in the heart of the Lion City. It includes folk dance performances representing all regions of India, live demos from craftsmen of traditional handicrafts, and a photo exhibition. The cultural aspect of the campaign will run for two days, and is open to the public.