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Singapore, India deepen ties with Strategic Partnership
SINGAPORE and India have elevated their bilateral relationship to a new level, with the signing of a Strategic Partnership on Tuesday.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong inked the pact and held substantive discussions. The two premiers also witnessed the signing and exchange of nine bilateral documents, and the launch of commemorative stamps to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations.
Earlier, Mr Modi was accorded a ceremonial welcome and, during the day, he called on President Tony Tan and met Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. He was hosted to an official lunch by PM Lee.
Speaking at the lunch, Mr Modi said he was pleased that the relations between the two countries had been elevated to a strategic partnership. "This is a decision Prime Minister (Lee) and I did not take lightly. We will fulfil the responsibility that comes with Strategic Partnership. We had many significant outcomes and agreements today. They cover things that matter to our prosperity and security, and our region's peace and stability."
Mr Lee said Singapore looked forward to India playing an active role in the region, promoting regional security and peace, linking its economy with the rest of Asia, and helping to shape an open and inclusive regional architecture.
"My predecessor, Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, was an early advocate for India's 'Look East' policy and helped to bring India in as Asean's Dialogue Partner. He also supported its entry into the Asean Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit (EAS).
"I am glad that we are also able to advance our defence relationship with India, with the revised Defence Cooperation Agreement. I look forward to India integrating its dynamic economy more closely with the region, as we strive to complete a high-quality Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)."
Mr Lee presented Mr Modi with a copy of the Tamil Murasu article on India's recognition of Singapore as an independent country which was dated Aug 11, 1965, just two days after Singapore's separation from Malaysia. "It demonstrates the longstanding and special friendship between India and Singapore," PM Lee said.
The two premiers affirmed that India and Singapore enjoyed long traditions of friendship based on mutual trust and respect and a shared history. It was decided to sustain the momentum of bilateral relations and on the continuation of regular exchanges under the agreed dialogue mechanisms between the foreign ministries and the defence ministries of the two countries.
The Strategic Partnership document reaffirmed the importance of defence relations between India and Singapore. A revised Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) under the ambit of an Enhanced Defence Partnership (EDP) - signed by Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen - was symbolically exchanged and witnessed by the two heads of government.
The two premiers also endorsed the continuation of joint military exercises and training between the armed forces of the two countries. They welcomed further collaboration in defence technology, including co-development and co-production.
Mr Modi and Mr Lee recognised that bilateral business and commercial linkages constitute key drivers of the wide-ranging India-Singapore partnership. In this regard, Mr Lee noted the various policy measures and economic initiatives introduced by Mr Modi since he came to power 18 months ago.
Both premiers recalled the five focal areas of cooperation - the 5-S, identified in August 2014 by their respective foreign ministers. They instructed their respective agencies to continue to work towards enhanced cooperation in these areas through specific programmes and projects.
The significance of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) signed in 2005 was reaffirmed and both PMs noted that they desired an early conclusion of the second review of CECA. They also welcomed the setting-up of a Joint Working Group (JWG) between the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Singapore Ministry of Trade and Industry to address bilateral trade and investment issues.
Noting that two-way trade between the two countries has more than doubled since 2005 to US$17 billion, the two premiers aspired to further double trade.
India and Singapore agreed to enhance cooperation in the area of urban solutions and sustainable smart city development. In this context, the two premiers welcomed Singapore's contribution of the master plan for the new state capital city of Andhra Pradesh, Amaravati, and they encouraged investors and investment institutions in Singapore to take advantage of the investment opportunities provided by the new capital. PM Modi encouraged Singapore to explore the possibility of developing urban centres under India's smart cities initiative.
Mr Lee and Mr Modi visited Singapore's Institute of Technical Education and the Indian prime minister noted Singapore's contribution in upgrading selected Industrial Training Institute (ITI) centres in India, including in New Delhi and Rajasthan, which help serve as models for other skill centres in India.
Mr Modi welcomed Singapore's interest in considering establishing a Skill Centre in the north-east of India through train-the-trainer and consultancy projects.
The two PMs agreed to continue to work closely together with other Asean member-states to strengthen Asean centrality, enhance connectivity, and support the Asean community-building process covering the three pillars of the Asean community.
Both expressed support for a modern, comprehensive and high-quality RCEP as a concrete pathway for India to deepen its engagement with the region and play an important role in the regional architecture.
They also underscored the importance of closer consultation and coordination between India and Singapore in regional forums, including the Asean-India, EAS, and Asean Regional Forum processes.
Mr Modi and Mr Lee condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and called for reinvigorating multilateral action on terrorism, including through the finalisation and adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism at the United Nations at the earliest.
Wrapping up his visit, PM Modi expressed his appreciation for the warm welcome and gracious hospitality he had received. Mr Lee accepted Mr Modi's invitation to visit India in due course. Visit dates will be finalised through diplomatic channels.