India to put CECA pact with Spore on fast lane

Written by Rituparna Bhuyan | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 22 2009, 05:08am hrs
When India and Singapore signed a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) in June, 2005, it was not only supposed to boost bilateral trade with the city state but also lead to mutual recognition of professional qualifications from fields like healthcare and accounting. But, with no progress on talks over mutual recognition of degrees between both the countries, the trade diplomats in the commerce and industry ministry have decided to talk to their counterparts in Singapore as well as professional bodies in India to speed up matters.

On its part, Singapore has recognised some top-notch Indian medical colleges, including AIIMS, New Delhi and AFMC, Pune. This means that doctors passing out from these colleges can practice in Singapore. In addition, some nursing colleges in Kerala have also been recognised by the Singapore government. The CECA had mandated that Singapore will give access to 127 different categories of Indian professionals.

Recognition of only a few colleges was not the intent of the CECA. It was supposed to lead to mutual recognition of degrees, so that people with professional qualifications could freely work in each otherss shores. Though Indian professionals are working in Singapore even now, it is not happening because of the CECA. We are going to talk to our counterparts in Singapore as well as professional bodies in India to see how the Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) talks could be speeded up, said a commerce ministry official.

Typically, Indias interests in MRA are represented by administrative bodies like the Medical Council of India and Dental Council of India. Sources said there has been some initial consultations between Medical Council of India and its Singapore counterpart, but talks are stuck as it is not interested in recognising second rate institutes.

Trade experts maintain that there MRA talks could be long drawn because of quality issues of Indian professional degrees like MBBS in overseas countries. The course curriculum has to be contemporary for such agreements to work out. There could be quality issues, said Amitendu Palit, a visiting research fellow of Singapore based Institute of South Asian Studies. Nevertheless, he maintains that Singapore has always relaxed working conditions for Indian professionals. If MRAs get signed, it will deepen economic relation between the two countries, he added.

Industry experts agree that there are quality issues with Indian professional courses as curriculum is not up to date. All MBBS courses in the country are not on the same level. It is ok if Singapore recognises degrees form top Indian institutes. They can keep on adding to that list based on the quality of institutes, said Tarun Das, former chief mentor of Confederation of Indian industry and a proponent of India-Singapore economic relations.