Thursday 26 November 2015

India PM Narendra Modi's Singapore visit

India, Singapore look to grow ties with new partnership
They envision a peaceful Asia-Pacific as essential foundation for regional growth
By Ravi Velloor, Associate Editor and Nilanjana Sengupta, The Straits Times, 25 Nov 2015

Singapore and India laid out an extensive road map for future ties, elevating the relationship to a strategic partnership that sees a peaceful Asia-Pacific region as an essential foundation for regional growth and development.

The partnership, together with other agreements unveiled yesterday, builds on defence ties that began with annual anti-submarine warfare exercises in 1994 and an economic relationship that was boosted in 2005 with the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, the first such deal India signed with any nation.

It envisages political exchanges, enhanced defence and security cooperation, trade and investment, financial linkages, strengthened air connectivity and cooperation in multilateral forums. Among other fruits of the deal, Changi Airport could run two airports in India, and India may pick Singapore as a financial centre to launch rupee bonds. There could also be the joint development and co-production of weapons.

First offered to India last year by then Foreign Minister K. Shanmugam, the strategic partnership was the high point of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's two-day official visit to Singapore to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic ties.

Earlier yesterday, Mr Modi was given a ceremonial welcome at the Istana as he arrived for a call on President Tony Tan Keng Yam, and meetings with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong. Clad in grey, Mr Modi arrived to a light drizzle, seen as a good sign by Indians.

Mr Lee hosted lunch for Mr Modi after they witnessed the signing of nine bilateral documents and the launch of commemorative stamps to mark 50 years of bilateral ties.

Before lunch, Mr Lee gave his guest a copy of the Tamil Murasu edition announcing India's diplomatic recognition of Singapore, two days after it became an independent state. In turn, Mr Modi gave Mr Lee a reproduction of a map of Singapore dating back to 1849, when it was ruled from Kolkata as part of British India.

"We wish India well in its reforms and development," Mr Lee said. "We hope to develop our economic cooperation, air links and other fields of cooperation, and we are happy to support India's development where we can."

Mr Modi called Singapore "a major partner" in almost every area of priority in India's transformation. "We are also working closely - to keep our continent peaceful, our maritime routes secure and free, our citizens safe and our cyber networks protected," he said.

The strategic partnership will see regular high-level meetings at the defence minister level, and the continuation of joint military exercises across all three service arms.

With Mr Modi pushing infrastructure and smart cities, urban solutions - a key Singapore strength - have gained salience in the relationship.

Analysts said they see prospects of a renewed vigour in ties.

"The agreements elevate things to an all-embracing level," said Ambassador-at-Large Gopinath Pillai, chairman of the Institute of South Asian Studies. "Targets will be set higher and so, too, the level of monitoring. This augurs well, particularly in the defence relationship. Singapore is the only foreign country permitted by India to do continuous military training on its soil."

Mr Pillai, former chairman of Gateway Distriparks, one of the earliest Singapore companies to invest in India's infrastructure, applauded recent Indian moves to free up more sectors to foreign investors.

"This will encourage even cautious Singapore companies to participate," he said. "For instance, foreigners were allowed to build malls earlier. Now, you may own the mall as well. That's a significant change."

Mr Modi left for New Delhi last night after addressing a business convention and a function for expatriate Indians.

2015 marks the 50th anniversary of our diplomatic relations with India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and I signed a...
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Tuesday, November 24, 2015

“There can be no place like Singapore”: India PM Narendra Modi says Singapore is “a source of inspiration” for nations worldwide.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Monday, November 23, 2015

Three important agreements which will have a long-term beneficial effect on Singapore were signed by PM Lee with his...
Posted by MParader on Tuesday, November 24, 2015

PM Lee lauds part played by Indians in Singapore
By Ravi Velloor, The Straits Times, 25 Nov 2015

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong lauded the contributions that Indian-origin people had made to Singapore, and said the Republic would support India's development where it could.

Raising a toast to his visiting Indian counterpart at an official lunch at the Istana yesterday, PM Lee said Indian immigrants had played a large part in building modern Singapore and form an essential part of its multiracial and multi-religious mix.

Aside from Indian labour that helped build many landmarks - including the Istana - Indian businessmen, traders and civil servants were here from the start. No fewer than five foreign ministers of independent Singapore had been of Indian origin.

"Singapore today has a thriving community of Indians who are well integrated in our society and form an essential part of our multiracial, multi-religious mix," he said. "India has been very much a part of Singapore's history."

Pioneers such as Mr G. Sarangapany founded the Tamil Murasu newspaper, while Mr Rajabali Jumabhoy, a Gujarati businessman, was the first president of the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

There were also religious leaders like Maulana Abdul Aleem Siddique from Meerut who established social welfare organisation Jamiyah in 1932 and the Inter-Religious Organisation in 1949.

Sikhs also contributed in many fields, including the armed forces and judiciary.

Tracing the connection with India to the 13th century, Mr Lee noted that Singapore had been part of the Majapahit Empire, one of the Indianised kingdoms in South-east Asia.

"Long before the term 'soft power' was coined, Indian influences left their mark on our traditions and landscape," he said, noting that even the names Indonesia and Indo-China attest to India's far-reaching influence.

Besides, Islam had come to the region through India.

Mr Modi's visit to Singapore, he said, came at a significant time when the two nations were celebrating the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

"We believe India is a great Asian country that has a lot to contribute to the region and we wish India well in its reforms and development," Mr Lee said.

"We hope to develop our economic cooperation, air links and other fields of cooperation and we are happy to support India's development where we can, because this is a mutually beneficial relationship."

Mr Lee said Singapore looked forward to India playing an important role in the region, promoting regional security and peace, integrating its economy with the rest of the region, and helping to shape an open and inclusive regional architecture.

“We’re deeply honoured by this extraordinary gesture”: PM Lee Hsien Loong thanks India PM Narendra Modi for declaring a national day of mourning when Mr Lee Kuan Yew passed away earlier this year.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Monday, November 23, 2015

The close ties started with Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who admired Indian leaders like Pandit Nehru for their peaceful struggle for freedom, commitment to secularism and leadership in the non- aligned movement.

India, he noted, had declared a national day of mourning for Mr Lee when he passed away in March. Singapore was grateful to Mr Modi for this special gesture.

Revised defence pact 'further strengthens Singapore-India ties'
Both nations to hold regular dialogues, spur industry cooperation as part of deal: MINDEF
By Nilanjana Sengupta, The Straits Times, 25 Nov 2015

Joint military training and exercises, defence technology cooperation and other professional exchanges between India and Singapore already signify the long-standing defence ties between the two Republics.

Taking this relationship a "few notches up" is the revised defence cooperation agreement that was concluded yesterday.

Both countries will hold regular defence ministers' dialogues and encourage cooperation between defence industries, as part of the revised agreement, said Singapore's Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) in a statement.

India is among the world's largest importers of arms, accounting for 15 per cent of the global arms imports from 2010 to last year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Although the joint development of weapons systems and arms sales depend on many factors in principle, there are many possibilities of collaboration with defence industries on this front, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said during a doorstop at the Istana. "And that is why it was part of the agreement," he said.

"Specifically, it also calls for a closer collaboration in maritime security which, in addition to an agreement to exchange of information on white shipping (civilian ships) between the two navies, puts the two countries on a better footing, and takes it a few notches up from the previous agreement," said Dr Ng.

"It signals that India and Singapore are closer defence partners."

<<Closer Military Ties with India>>Happy to announce that Minister Manohar Parrikar and I have signed a revised...
Posted by Ng Eng Hen on Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The revised defence agreement signed by Dr Ng and his Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar was symbolically exchanged yesterday by Singapore Permanent Secretary for Defence Chan Yeng Kit and Indian Foreign Secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, in the presence of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Indian counterpart, Mr Narendra Modi.

Both countries have also agreed to continue to conduct and enhance bilateral training and exercises between the two armed forces, and explore further cooperation in areas of common interest, such as defence technology and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Earlier this year, an international liaison officer was accredited by India to the regional disaster centre at Changi, said the MINDEF press statement.

Defence ties between Singapore and India have deepened since the defence cooperation agreement was signed in 2003, followed by the air force and army bilateral agreements in 2007 and 2008. During Mr Lee's visit to India in 2012, both governments also renewed an agreement to allow the Republic of Singapore Air Force to continue joint military training at Kalaikunda Air Force Station for five more years.

Modi tours engineering hubs at ITE campus
By Reme Ahmad, The Straits Times, 25 Nov 2015

India needs skilled hands in large numbers if Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dreams of Make In India are to come true, and Singapore has those skills.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday took Mr Modi on a tour of Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central that showcased Singapore's technical training and skills development.

The 10.6ha campus, opened in 2013, is located in Ang Mo Kio Drive in Mr Lee's Teck Ghee constituency.

The two leaders toured the maritime, aerospace and precision engineering hubs at the campus while officials briefed them on the facilities and training available.

To commemorate the visit, the two leaders donned gloves and worked on metal sheets at the precision engineering hub to create bookends which they signed and gifted each other. One set of the bookends has the Merlion head laser-cut into the sheet metal and the other bears the image of the famous India Gate in New Delhi.

Before leaving the workshop, Mr Lee shook hands with the two students who helped Mr Modi and him fashion the bookends, quipping: "I hope we passed."

At the end of the hour-long visit, they took a group picture with students and lecturers. ITE director and chief executive officer Bruce Poh told reporters later that India had made the request to see its engineering facilities.

What Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did during his tour of ITE College Central:
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Indian government has identified the scaling up of skills training as a priority to pushing economic growth, with Mr Modi having set up a Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Ministry.

"At the end of the visit, (Mr Modi) asked our PM to help create something like this in his country that they can be proud of," Mr Poh said.

He added that a top ITE official is currently in India to discuss consultancy services that the institute could provide to India.

ITE is providing technical training consultancy to 26 countries, including those in South-east Asia and Africa, Mr Poh said.

In August, Singapore signed a memorandum of understanding with the Rajasthan state government to set up a skills centre to train 480 students in the tourism and hospitality sector annually.

Thank you Lee Hsien Loong for taking me around ITE. Focus on technical education & skill development is impressive. ITE,...
Posted by Narendra Modi on Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thank you PM Lee Hsien Loong for the impromptu outing...enjoyed the Diwali lights and the Indian food. #Selfie
Posted by Narendra Modi on Monday, November 23, 2015

Leaders share simple meal at eatery
The Straits Times, 25 Nov 2015

"The food was good."

Mr Rajakumar Gunasekaran, operations director of Indian vegetarian restaurant Komala Vilas, takes pleasure in even the simplest of praises from his customers, but this was no ordinary compliment.

It was made by visiting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who caused quite a stir when he dropped in at the no-frills Serangoon Road restaurant with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his wife, Mrs Lee, on Monday night.

"In all that excitement, it was all I could remember from my brief conversation with him. But the best thing was that he enjoyed the food," Mr Rajakumar, 29, told The Straits Times yesterday of his meeting with Mr Modi.

Mr Rajakumar's grandfather opened Komala Vilas - which has become something of an institution for vegetarian food on the Little India culinary scene - in 1947.

Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong hosts dinner for PM Modi at Komal...
Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong hosts dinner for PM Narendra Modi at Komala Vilas restaurant in Singapore's 'Little India'
Posted by TIMES NOW on Monday, November 23, 2015

The eatery was told in advance about the visit. The VIPs arrived at about 9.15pm, after Mr Modi's Singapore Lecture at the Shangri-La Hotel, and stayed for 45 minutes.

Excited staff served them a vegetarian spread of idli (a rice cake consisting of fermented black lentils), vadai (savoury fritters) and the restaurant's famous thosai (a crepe made from rice batter and lentils).

Their simple meal was accompanied by traditional Indian drinks - sweet yoghurt lassi, mango lassi and lime juice.

The VIPs' appearance was a major surprise for other customers. Business went on as usual on the restaurant's second floor, but the first floor was occupied only by Mr Modi, PM Lee and Mrs Lee during the meal due to security concerns.

A crowd of gawking onlookers gathered outside the eatery as word spread of Mr Modi's presence, said cashier Kavitha, 27.

Mr Modi and Mr Lee both posted wefies taken at the restaurant on their Facebook pages.

Ho Ching and I took PM Narendra Modi to Little India for supper after his Singapore Lecture. Here is the wefie we took after a delicious vegetarian meal. - LHL
Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Sunday, November 22, 2015

Investment in India 'boosted by reforms'
Singapore and India can work together in many promising areas, Modi tells business leaders
By Rennie Whang, The Straits Times, 25 Nov 2015

A medley of reforms has boosted India's attractiveness as an investment destination with an unparalleled customer base, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi told company bosses here yesterday.

The Indian government is working hard to ensure its tax regime is transparent and predictable, and it has greatly relaxed conditions for foreign direct investment (FDI).

"(Singapore) is an exciting incubator and India is a vast laboratory. Singapore and India can work together in many promising areas."

Mr Modi was speaking to delegates from more than 300 firms from the two countries at the India- Singapore Economic Convention at Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

Singapore is India's 10th largest trade partner and its No. 2 source of FDI, with bilateral trade surging since the 2005 Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement. India was Singapore's 12th largest trading partner last year.

In the past 10 years, Singapore's trade with India doubled from $11.8 billion to $24.6 billion while its investments in India grew from $653 million to $12.2 billion, Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran said in an earlier address.

Mr Modi said a significant number of Indian companies are registered here, while Singapore firms have been involved in the Indian market over the past 20 years. "Our companies are positioned to explore and develop promising engagements," he said. For instance, Singapore's Surbana Jurong is involved in master planning for Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh state's new capital. Last month, Mr Modi laid the foundation stone for the fourth container terminal at India's busiest port, Jawaharlal Nehru Port, which is being developed by a PSA International unit.

The Indian government is also exploring a collaboration with Changi Airport to operate two of its airports in India, he added.

In a further sign of economic engagement, Singapore could also be among the nations where it will launch rupee-dominated bonds to finance infrastructure investments.

Companies at the convention largely cheered recent reforms.

DBS Bank was looking for a country to launch a mobile online bank, and chose to set up the "digibank" in India, ahead of China, Indonesia and even Singapore, DBS Group Holdings chief executive officer Piyush Gupta said at a panel discussion. "(We did so as) the framework which had been established in India for electronic know-your-customer and payments is much speedier than anyone else's in Asia."

However, India's banking sector remains somewhat challenged, with significant non-performing loans in the system. "Despite the large capital allocation for the country, the banks are still not adequately capitalised," he noted.

In the real estate space, Ascendas, which built the first business park in India in 1994, noted India's desire and potential to grow its manufacturing sector, which bodes well for business space. "We believe in the future of India and are committed to growing in the country," said Mr Manohar Khiatani, president and group CEO of Ascendas and deputy group chief executive officer of Ascendas-Singbridge.

18,000 turn up to see Modi at Indian diaspora event
By Nilanjana Sengupta, The Straits Times, 25 Nov 2015

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi so loves an audience that he seems continually on the stump.

Last night, a rapt audience of about 18,000 greeted him at a special event for the Indian diaspora at the Singapore Expo.

Most were expatriates from India while a few had made the trip from neighbouring countries and even the United States and India.

Dressed in a white traditional Indian outfit, Mr Modi did not disappoint the crowd, which had waited patiently for over three hours. If they had difficulty seeing him, they could turn to five giant screens.

Organised by the Singapore NRI Forum - NRI is short for non-resident Indian - the event reached full capacity more than a week ago, but organisers were still receiving requests for seats, said Mr Satyamurthy Vamaraju, chief coordinator of the event.

Speaking in Hindi, Mr Modi continued for more than an hour on the theme, "The world is one family", and offered his vision of a self-confident India.

Singapore permanent resident Priyanka Ranade, 33, who works in a wealth advisory firm here, said she is a fan of Mr Modi's. She had not only registered herself for the event, but also got seats for her parents visiting from India.

Mr Modi concluded his speech by saying Singapore had been built by many. "Now Singapore is also helping other countries to build themselves. I congratulate Singaporeans and Singapore," he said.

Presented PM Lee Hsien Loong a reproduction of a map of the island of Singapore dating back to 1849. Measuring 52in x...
Posted by Narendra Modi on Monday, November 23, 2015

Stamp issue to mark Singapore-India ties
The Straits Times, 24 Nov 2015

A commemorative Singapore-India stamp set will be released by SingPost today, while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on an official visit to Singapore.

The joint issue is to mark the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and India this year. India was among the earliest countries to recognise Singapore in 1965.

The stamp issue comprises two stamps that depict the presidential residences of both countries: a First Local stamp featuring the Istana in Singapore, and a $2 stamp featuring Rashtrapati Bhavan, the official residence of the Indian president in New Delhi.

The stamps will be launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Modi at a ceremony at the Istana today.

The stamps and related products will be available at all post offices and the Singapore Philatelic Museum from today, and online at

India will help keep sea lanes free: Modi
Critical need in Asia to 'uphold rules, norms of collective behaviour based on consent of all'
By Ravi Velloor, Associate Editor (Global Affairs) and Nilanjana Sengupta, Digital News Editor, The Straits Times, 24 Nov 2015

India will lend its strength to ensure freedom of navigation in regional waters, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said yesterday, as he outlined his government's Act East Policy set against a resurgent domestic economy.

The most critical need in Asia, he said, was to uphold and strengthen rules and norms of collective behaviour built not on the strength of a few but on the consent of all.

"India will work with countries in the region and beyond, including the United States and Russia, to ensure that our commons - ocean, space and cyber - remain avenues of shared prosperity, not become new theatres of contests," he said, delivering the 37th Singapore Lecture. "India will lend its strength to keep the seas safe, secure and free for the benefit of all."

Mr Modi, who arrived here in the evening after attending the East Asia Summit in Kuala Lumpur, drove straight from the airport to the Shangri-La Hotel to deliver his address. Chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, the lecture was attended by a standing-room-only audience of more than 1,000 that repeatedly applauded the Indian leader, nattily turned out in a white Indian tunic, tight-fitted churidar trousers and a red kerchief in his breast pocket.

They included Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, his wife, Mrs Lee, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan and Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran.

DPM Tharman, who noted that India was the second nation to recognise Singapore upon independence 50 years ago, said Singapore is confident that India will remain an important stakeholder in the region. "Even as we celebrate the past 50 years, we want to build a partnership for the next 50 years. Tomorrow, the two Prime Ministers will be signing a Strategic Partnership that will not only elevate relations but also chart the way forward in the coming decades."

Following the speech, PM Lee and Mrs Lee hosted Mr Modi to a quiet vegetarian meal at the Komala Vilas Restaurant in Little India. They emerged to wave to gawking onlookers surprised to see the two leaders in an eatery that has provided comfort food to millions of less-known visitors from India.

PM Lee will host lunch for Mr Modi at the Istana today, after an official welcome ceremony that marks the start of a hectic day for the 65-year-old Indian leader. Aside from the "strategic partnership", the two sides are billed to sign a slew of agreements, including a vital one on defence before Mr Modi departs for home late tonight.

Mr Modi said he had invigorated his nation's Asia policy since taking office last year. With Asean at its core, India had engaged with Asia more than any other region. "Today, Singapore is one of our most important partners in the world. It is a relationship that is as strategic as it is wide-ranging," he said.

37th Singapore Lecture "India's Singapore Story" By H.E. Shri Narendra ModiPrime Minister Shri Narendra Modi of the...
Posted by ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute on Monday, November 23, 2015

Modi pays tribute to Singapore leaders, hails close bilateral ties
By Ravi Velloor, Associate Editor (Global Affairs) and Nilanjana Sengupta, Digital News Editor, The Straits Times, 24 Nov 2015

Paying fulsome tribute to Singapore and its leaders who, he said, had inspired many of his own initiatives, Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the island as a "metaphor for the reality of dreams".

Explaining his growth strategy, he said one set of policies he is implementing in India was to empower its people. The other was to create the conditions in which enterprise flourishes, opportunities expand and the potential of its citizens is unlocked.

"We are investing in our people through skills and education, special focus on the girl child, financial inclusion, sustainable habitats, clean rivers and smart cities; and access to basic needs of all our citizens - from water and sanitation to power and housing."

Mr Modi's Singapore Lecture, organised by the Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute, was titled "India's Singapore Story".

Calling Mr Lee Kuan Yew a "personal inspiration", Mr Modi said Singapore's founding father believed in India's potential at home and its role abroad more than many in India. This was why he had travelled to Singapore in March to attend the funeral service for Mr Lee.

"In the observance of a day's mourning in India, we wanted to honour a true friend and a very special relationship," he said.

Sketching how old ties had evolved, he said Singapore became India's springboard to the world as it embarked on economic liberalisation. "No one worked harder for it and no one deserves more credit for it than Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong," Mr Modi said. "He re-connected India to Singapore and the region."

Mr Goh had famously spoken of sparking a "mild India fever" in 1994, three years after India opened its economy to foreign investment and freed state controls on industry.

Ties have strengthened since that call.

India and Singapore also enjoy comprehensive defence and security relations, Mr Modi pointed out. And Singapore, which has 440 weekly flights to India, is the world's most connected nation to India.

"Our partnership will expand as our economies grow and the framework of trade and investment improves further," he said.

Mr Modi noted that the key to Singapore's success was "the quality of human resources, the belief of a people and the resolve of a nation".

It is with the same vision that India is pursuing its own transformation, he said.

And Singapore is already a major partner in that dream, he said, with a stake in several areas such as developing skilled human resources, planning smart cities, cleaning rivers and developing clean energy.

"Singapore's success in overcoming odds leads me to seek a partnership that addresses the challenges of the 21st century - from food and water to clean energy and sustainable habitats," he said.

Today, Mr Modi and PM Lee will seek to further strengthen the bilateral relationship by signing a joint declaration elevating the ties between Singapore and India to a strategic partnership, and release a joint statement detailing how the partnership will be fulfilled.

The strategic partnership will broaden and deepen ties across various sectors, including defence relations, economic and cultural cooperation, skills development and capacity building, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement said on Sunday.

Singapore, India to take bilateral ties up a notch
Strong ties to be elevated to a strategic partnership during Modi's two-day visit
By Ravi Velloor, Associate Editor (Global Affairs), The Straits Times, 23 Nov 2015

Singapore and India will elevate their strong ties to a strategic partnership during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's two-day visit starting today.

The visit of the Indian leader, who was voted to power by a landslide last year, takes on special meaning as both nations commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties. India was among the earliest to recognise Singapore in 1965.

"The strategic partnership will broaden and deepen ties across various sectors including defence relations, economic and cultural cooperation, skills development and capacity building," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said yesterday.

Given Mr Modi's credentials as a strong, growth-focused leader, the visit could be as significant to the bilateral relationship as one made by the late Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in 1994, three years after he liberalised India's economic policies and set the nation on a faster growth trajectory. India now lays claim to being the world's fastest growing major economy.

Mr Modi's Singapore Lecture, to be delivered shortly after his arrival this evening from the East Asia Summit (EAS) in Kuala Lumpur, will likely highlight his vision for the relationship in the years ahead. Analysts also expect him to expand on his "Act East" policy, which itself builds on Mr Rao's "Look East" policy.

The lecture will be chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and attended by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

Since then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong spoke of sparking a "mild India fever" in 1994, economic ties have boomed. A Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement was inked in 2005. In 2013, foreign direct investment from India into Singapore was $23.7 billion, nearly twice Singapore's direct investment to India of $12.1 billion.

Indian visitors are also big spenders. Last year, the 943,600 Indians who travelled here spent nearly $1.2 billion, the third-largest tourism receipts-generating market.

Still, some think trade is one area that could benefit from fresh momentum. Last year, India was Singapore's 12th-largest trading partner and export destination, with bilateral trade of close to $24.6 billion, about a fifth of Singapore's trade with China.

Mr Modi, The Straits Times Asian of the Year in 2014, is in Singapore at the invitation of PM Lee, who will give him a ceremonial welcome at the Istana. Tomorrow is his big day of meetings, with calls on President Tony Tan Keng Yam, and meetings with Emeritus Senior Minister Goh and PM Lee. PM Lee also will host lunch for Mr Modi and they will visit the ITE College Central for a look at Singapore's approach to skills training.

The first Indian prime minister born in the post-independence era, Mr Modi owes his ascent to his development-focused record as chief minister of western Gujarat state. He has often cited Singapore's leadership as a beacon since making his first trip here in 2006 as the state's chief minister.

Singapore also played a key role in facilitating India's Look East policy, helping to elevate its status to full dialogue partnership of Asean and its inclusion in the inaugural EAS. Mr Modi acknowledged this debt by being present at the state funeral service for Mr Lee Kuan Yew in March, and ordering flags in his vast nation to be flown at half-mast as a mark of respect to Mr Lee.

In turn, Singapore leaders have regularly visited him in Gujarat and taken part in the Vibrant Gujarat summits organised by him, even as many Western leaders shunned him for his perceived mishandling of communal tensions in the first months of his 12-year stewardship of Gujarat.

Since that early stumble, Gujarat had remained peaceful under his watch. Still, the United States lifted its visa ban on Mr Modi only a few weeks before his landslide victory in national polls last year.

Mr Modi, who continues to be personally popular in his country, arrives following his party's electoral setback in the populous Bihar state in the Hindi-speaking heartland. On the stump last year, he had often boasted of a "56-inch chest" - seeking to draw attention to his robust record as an administrator compared with the limp-wristed Dr Manmohan Singh.

He has declined the offer of a Singapore orchid named after him, Indian officials said.

"It was being talked about earlier but, due to paucity of time, we had to forgo that visit. So, that will not happen during that visit," said Secretary (East) Anil Wadhwa in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.

Mr Modi leaves for home tomorrow night after delivering a special address at the Singapore-India Economic Convention and a speech to expatriate Indians at the Singapore Expo.

India's trysts with destiny
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who arrives in Singapore today to mark 50 years of India-Singapore ties, inspires confidence for three reasons
By Tommy Koh, Published The Straits Times, 23 Nov 2015

At midnight on Aug 15, 1947, India gained its independence after two centuries of British rule. This had been preceded by three centuries of Mughal rule. The people of India had waited for more than 500 years to be the masters of their own destiny.

Speaking at that midnight hour, India's founding Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru declared that India had a "tryst with destiny". Nehru united the country with his vision, charisma and eloquence.

He elevated the status and role of India in the community of nations. He left India with a positive legacy of democracy, rule of law and secularism.

Under Nehru, India did not however achieve great economic progress. This was due to the fact that Nehru had pursued an economic policy which was based on socialism and state planning. The economy was inward-looking, the role of the public sector was emphasised over the private sector and decisions were made by bureaucrats instead of the market. The result was that India grew very slowly, at a rate which came to be known as the "Hindu rate of growth".


In 1991, India was faced with an economic crisis. Inflation was 13 per cent and rising. The current account deficit was running at US$10 billion and the foreign exchange reserves were enough to fund only two weeks of imports. The external debt was 250 per cent of exports.

In the face of that crisis, the Congress Party appointed a veteran politician, Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao, to lead a minority government.

He appointed a former governor of the Reserve Bank of India, Dr Manmohan Singh, as his Finance Minister.

In the next two years, Dr Singh dismantled some of the worst features of the Nehruvian economic model. Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh saved India from the brink of economic collapse. More importantly, they started India's second tryst with destiny.

Their legacy of economic reform and opening the Indian economy to the world was accepted and built upon by the subsequent administrations of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. However, in Dr Singh's second term as prime minister, the government's focus was distracted by a series of corruption scandals and the drive for reform lost momentum. The country cried out for a new leader and a new tryst with destiny.


The world had come to expect that elections in India would not produce a winner with a majority in the Lok Sabha. Instead, we had become used to the idea that India would be ruled by coalition governments. The results of the elections last year were therefore beyond expectations. Under its charismatic leader, Mr Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party secured a majority of the seats in the Lok Sabha. It could therefore rule India without having to depend on the support of unreliable coalition partners.

Will Prime Minister Modi be able to rekindle the hopes of the 1990s and launch India along a trajectory of sustained high growth for the next decade? Will Prime Minister Modi be able to complete the agenda of economic reform begun by Prime Minister Rao? Will he succeed in transforming India

into a country which is easy to do business in? Will he succeed in translating the slogan, "Make in India", into building a competitive manufacturing sector in the Indian economy? Will he succeed in turning his slogan, "100 Smart Cities", into an urban policy of liveable cities and sustainable urbanisation?


The confidence Singapore has in Prime Minister Modi is based upon three factors.

First, it is based on his track record as the chief minister of Gujarat. During the close to 13 years that he ruled Gujarat as chief minister, he was highly successful while remaining non-corrupt. His slogan was "less government, more governance". He reduced taxes and regulations. He invested in roads, irrigation, education and healthcare. He promoted the growth of the manufacturing sector in addition to agriculture. His success in Gujarat can be seen in the reduction of poverty in that state. In 2004-2005, 31.8 per cent of Gujarat's population lived below the poverty line. By 2011-2012, the percentage had fallen to 16.6.

Second, our confidence in Prime Minister Modi is based upon his record of integrity and good governance. Corruption is one of India's challenges. Prime Minister Modi's personal record of integrity and his demand for good governance are exemplary. Good governance will improve India's business environment and the confidence of investors. Good governance will improve economic efficiency. Good governance will improve the lives of the people of India.

Third, we like the Prime Minister's focus, discipline and ambition for India. In order to galvanise the people of India to believe in themselves, we need an inspiring leader like Prime Minister Modi. We also need an Indian leader who prioritises development over everything else. During the election campaign, he said that India needed development more than deity. He also said that India needed toilets more than temples. This was remarkable coming from a person who has often been described as a Hindu fundamentalist.

Singapore has confidence in Prime Minister Modi. This confidence is reflected in the fact that, after Mauritius, we are the largest foreign investor in India.

We are helping India in skills development and city planning.

Our private sector has invested in India's logistics, energy, industrial estates, water, seaports, airports, manufacturing and services, etc.

Our bilateral relations are comprehensive and multi-faceted. Our leaders enjoy a high comfort level based upon mutual trust and confidence. We are confident that during his forthcoming visit,

Prime Minister Modi and his Singapore counterpart, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, will agree to raise our relationship to an even higher level.

Singaporeans of all races extend a warm welcome to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The writer is Ambassador-at-Large at Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

From signing key agreements to having dinner at Komala Vilas, here's what Indian PM Narendra Modi did in Singapore:
Posted by The Straits Times on Tuesday, November 24, 2015

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