India-Singapore Relations

The bilateral ties between India and Singapore share ingrained economic, cultural and relational links. Singapore had always been an important strategic trading position, giving India trade access to the Far East. In 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles established a trading station in Singapore on the route of the Straits of Malacca which became a colony under British India, governed from Calcutta (1830-1867). The colonial connection is reflected in a similarity of institutions and practices, usage of English and the presence of a large Indian community. Although the rival positions of both nations over the Vietnam War and the Cold War caused consternation between India and Singapore, their relationship expanded significantly in the 1990s.

India was one of the first countries to recognize Singapore in 1965 after the latter became independent. Relations with Singapore strengthened with acceptance of India’s economic reforms in 1990s and the Look East Policy that provided opportunities to recreate a new framework for cooperation. It included the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) of 2005.

This robust relationship was elevated to a Strategic Partnership during the visit of Prime Minister Modi in November 2015 reaffirming fifty years of bilateral relations. PM Modi signed a Joint Declaration on a Strategic Partnership with Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on this occasion.

Exchange of Visits

An Official Visit by Prime Minister Modi to Singapore on 23-24 November 2015 initiated the exchange of nine bilateral documents in areas of defence, maritime security, cyber security, narcotics trafficking, urban planning, civil aviation, and culture and a Joint Statement was issued which outlined areas of cooperation and mutual interest. Prime Minister paid homage to Netaji at the INA Memorial Marker. PM Modi delivered the 37th Singapore Lecture titled ‘India’s Singapore Story’, visited the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and addressed the business community at the India-Singapore Economic Convention and the a gathering of around 20,000 Indian community in Singapore. Both the Prime Ministers released the Joint commemorative stamps depicting the Presidential Buildings of the two countries to observe the 50th anniversary of ambassadorial relations.

After the passing of founding father of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew on 29 March 2015 Prime Minister Modi visited Singapore to attend the State Funeral. PM’s participation in the funeral followed with a day of mourning in India with our flags flying half-mast, was acutely appreciated by Singapore Government.

Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong along with Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) Mr. S. Iswaran, acting Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills) and Senior of State for Defence Mr. Ong Ye Kung, Senior Minister of State (Defence and Foreign Affairs) Dr. Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman and Members of Parliament made a Working Visit to India from 3-7 October 2016. PM Lee called on President, and met with PM, who hosted a banquet in his honour. Extensive discussions on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues were carried out. Both the PM’s reviewed the Joint Declaration on a Strategic Partnership signed in November 2015. Three MoUs on collaboration in the field of technical and vocational education and training and cooperation in industrial property were signed. PM Lee also met External Affairs Minister (EAM) and followed by a visit to Udaipur to inaugurate a Centre of Excellence for Tourism Management. An active calendar of visits from both sides, have added momentum to bilateral relations.

Visits from India in 2017 include Defence Secretary Mr. G Mohan Kumar for Defence Policy Dialogue in January ; Minister for Skill Development of Jharkhand Ms. Neera Yadav to explore cooperation in skill development and IT sector in February ; Minister for Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Shri Nitin Gadkari for Road Show on India Integrated Transport & Logistics Summit and to launch Masala Bonds in April ; Chief Minister of Haryana Shri Manohar Lal Khattar for investment promotion and Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chief of the Naval Staff for naval exercise in May; Foreign Secretary Dr. S Jaishankar to deliver S T Lee Lecture co- hosted by Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in July; Chief Minister of Maharashtra Shri Devendra Fadnavis for investment promotion in September 2017, Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs Shri Arun Jaitley in November to attend Singapore Fintech Festival and at the Asia Pacific Summit; Mr Himanta Biswa Sarma Finance Minister of Assam (twice), Mr. Rihon Daimary, Minister of Public Health and Engineering , Mr. Haseeb Drabu, Finance Minister of Jammu & Kashmir, Mr. T.P. Ramakrishnan, Minister of Labour and Excise of Kerala and Mr. K Pandiarajan, Minister for Tamil development , Tamil Culture and Archaeology of Tamil Nadu visited in November.

This year, on the occasion of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) on 6-7 January, Minister of External Affairs Smt. Sushma Swaraj, Minister for Shipping, Road Transport and Highways Shri Nitin Gadkari, Chief Minister of Assam Shri Sarbananda Sonowal, Smt. Priti Saran, Secretary (East) and CEO,NITI Aayog Shri Amitabh Kant with host of other dignitaries from India visited Singapore.

Visits from Singapore in 2017 :

To hold discussions with Secretary DEA in April Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Finance Mrs. Tan Ching Yee visited India; Minister of Home Affairs & Minister of Law Mr. K Shanmugam came to attend Counter terrorism Summit in March ,Minister for Trade & Industry (Industry) Mr. S Iswaran in March and November to New Delhi and in May and November to Andhra Pradesh , Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies

Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam to deliver key note address at Delhi Economics Conclave and Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman for Delhi Dialogue in July, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan visited New Delhi and Guwahati on 31 October – 1 November for Fifth India-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC) meeting and in connection with North East Skills Centre (NESC) respectively,

Senior Minister of State for Law and Finance Ms. Indranee Rajah to New Delhi in October to attend Singapore International Arbitration Centre India Conference ; Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen to New Delhi and Kalaikunda to attend the second India-Singapore Defence Ministers’ Dialogue (DMD) and to view Joint training of India and Singapore Air Forces; and Emeritus Senior Minister (ESM) Goh Chok Tong visited New Delhi in December 2017.

This year Senior Minister of State for Defence and Foreign Affairs Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman visited New Delhi for participation in Raisina Dialogue on 16-17 January.

Framework of the Bilateral Relationship

India-Singapore share enduring cultural values and approaches, economic opportunities and convergence of interests on key issues. Both countries have a full calendar of more than 20 bilateral mechanisms, dialogues and exercises, many of which take place annually.

Bilateral agreements between India and Singapore reflect the growing breadth of cooperation and provide a larger framework for activities between the two Governments, the business community, and people-to-people exchanges. Key agreements include the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (2005), Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (1994, Protocols signed in 2011), Bilateral Air Services Agreement (1968, revised in April 2013), Defence Cooperation Agreement (2003, enhanced Agreement signed in Nov 2015), MOU on Foreign Office Consultations (1994) and Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (2005).There is a Joint Ministerial Committee (JMC), chaired by EAM and Singapore Foreign Minister.

Cultural Cooperation

India and Singapore signed a MOU in the year 1993 for mutual cooperation and support to maintain the Arts & Historical Heritage. This cooperation through Executive Programmes was extended for a particular time frame. Executive Currently, the period of cooperation is from 2015-2018, during PM’s visit to Singapore in 2015. Various cultural programs are organized in Singapore by communities working in the field on history and culture. Classical dance, yoga, Indian art and language classes are carried out by regional and community based organizations. Similarly, Singapore youth are encouraged to visit India and promote Singapore culture. An MOU have been signed between ICCR and the National University of Singapore (NUS) in March 2010 instituting short-term courses on Indian Studies at the South Asian Studies Programme , NUS.

Indian Community

Indians constitute about 9.1 % or around 3.5 lakhs of the resident population of 3.9 million in Singapore, making them third largest ethnic group in Singapore. With the founding of Modern Singapore by British in 1819, mass migration of Indians began to Singapore. Singapore’s Indian community is characterized by an ethnic Tamil majority (54.18%) and a large number of smaller groups. Tamil is one of the four official languages of Singapore. Hindi, Gujarati, Urdu, Bengali and Punjabi are also taught in schools. In addition, among the 1.6 million foreigners residing in Singapore, about 21 % or around 3.5 lakhs are Indian expatriates holding Indian passports, mostly serving in financial services, IT, students, construction and marine sectors. Singapore has the highest concentration of IIT and IIM alumni in any one city outside India. There are about 1.5 lakh Indian migrant workers in Singapore. Singapore however does not feature in the ‘Emigration Clearance Required’ category. Welfare and well-being of the Indian nationals, including of Indian workers feature prominently in consular responsibilities of the High Commission.

ASEAN India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) was held in Singapore on 6-7 January 2018 as part of commemoration of 25 years of ASEAN-India Partnership. The theme for the event was, “Ancient Route, New Journey: Diaspora in the Dynamic ASEAN INDIA Partnership.” It was held at amiable marina Bay Sands Convention Centre with more than 5000 registrations with an average of 3000 participants at any given time at the venue. There were 16 thematic sessions covering business, technology, connectivity to culture, youth and diaspora. In addition, there were writers’ festival, cinema festival, art exhibition, Yoga corner and Ayurveda conference all showcasing ASEAN Indian diaspora talent and expertise. A no. of competitions such as essays, poetry (in English, Hindi & Tamil), classical dance and music, photo competitions and online competitions around PM’s flagship initiatives were organized, that received massive participation from youth. The event aimed to deepen the ties between diaspora and open new horizon to accomplish.

by Mrs. Meenakshi Sharma


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