Singaporean Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, on Monday, asserted Singapore's position as a natural developmental partner to India while the latter strives to boost urban development.
Speaking at the India-Singapore: The Next Phase business and innovation summit, Dr Balakrishnan said, “We believe we are a natural partner as India urbanises. Our expertise in urban development, planning, and infrastructure finance will be salient to India”.
He added that the country's water expertise could be of potential benefit to India, referring to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s declaration to prioritise water conservation during his Independence Day address.
“No one understands the sanctity of water (and) how to make every drop count as much as Singapore ... In our own small way, but significant way, we believe our experiences will be relevant to India”, stated Dr Balakrishnan.
Furthermore, the minister highlighted that India's goal of becoming a USD 5 trillion economy by 2024 and aims to invest about USD 13.9 billion in urban infrastructure and solutions over the next five years presented a huge opportunity for firms operating in the sector.
Dr Balakrishnan stated that Singapore was already “welcoming and familiar” to Indian businesses, serving as an ideal gateway for Indian firms aiming to expand in the region.
He noted that over 8,000 Indian companies were already operating in Singapore, constituting the largest foreign business presence in the country.
Additionally, Dr Balakrishnan expressed Singapore's readiness to support India's efforts towards innovation.
“We can collaborate with your government agencies and your companies to pilot digital platforms that will facilitate ease of doing business. We have the diverse population and we have the support structures to help you develop, trial, adapt digital solutions both in ASEAN and in India”.
Indian External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar expressed India’s concern over the pending Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
As pressure mounts to finalize the 16-country free trade agreement by the end of 2019, Dr Jaishankar made particular note of India’s 'enormous' trade deficit with China, as a result of 'unfair' protectionist policies.
“RCEP at the end of the day is an economic negotiation,” he stated.
“You can't sell a trade agreement for its foreign policy benefits. It has to be sold for its trade benefits".
Dr Balakrishnan emphasised that the RCEP would provide tremendous economic opportunities if fair rules could be agreed upon. He described the trade deal as 'the mother of all trade agreements' with the potential to create a 'centre of gravity in the Indo-Pacific'.
The 10 ASEAN nations, as well as India, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, are set to sign the agreement.
According to Dr Balakrishnan, nations that support the potential of globalisation and free trade to act as agents of peace should increase their efforts considering global pushback against them.