Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong today agreed to deepen the bilateral economic ties and build on defence cooperation as the two sides signed eight agreements including one on logistics cooperation between their navies. The two leaders, who held wide-ranging discussions on regional and global issues of mutual interests, also called for a peaceful, open, and friendly maritime environment in the Indo-Pacific region. Prime Minister Modi said that the strategic partnership between India and Singapore has stood the test of time in the real sense. “We have been able to conclude successfully the second review of Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) but we agreed this is not just our target and goal but this only means to an end,” Modi said in a joint press statement after the meeting.
“Our officials will soon begin discussions on upgrading and reforming this agreement,” he added. Since CECA was signed in 2004, India-Singapore bilateral trade more than doubled from SGD12 billion (USD 8.97 billions) to SGD 25 billion (USD 18.69 billion). Singapore was the second largest investor in India in FY-2016. Modi hailed the close defence cooperation between the two countries and welcomed the completion of the logistics agreement between the two navies. “In the coming times, dealing with cyber security and extremism and terrorism will be important areas of our cooperation,” the prime minister said. Modi and Lee also exchanged views on the regional and global challenges and reiterated their principled position on maritime security and expressed commitment to ‘Rules Based’ Order. The two leaders also agreed on the need to maintain an open, stable and fair international trade regime. “We both have reaffirmed our views on maritime security and have shown our commitment to a ‘Rules Based’ order…We also agreed for a peaceful, open, and friendly maritime environment in the Indo-Pacific region,” Modi said.
China is engaged in hotly contested territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Beijing has also made substantial progress in militarising its manmade islands in the past few years, which it says it has the right to defend. China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea. But Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims. In the East China Sea, Beijing has territorial disputes with Japan. The South China Sea and the East China Sea are stated to be rich in minerals, oil and other natural resources. They are also vital to global trade. On his part, Lee said the bilateral defence ties have grown stronger. “Our defence ties have strengthened, our navies have signed an agreement today on logistics cooperation and will also celebrate 25th anniversary of annual Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise (SIMBEX) this year,” Lee said.
He said India and Singapore are collaborating on technology, smart cities and skills development, both at the national and the state level. Lee pointed out that two projects, that arose from Prime Minister Modi’s 2015 visit to the city-state, have been completed. “Andhra Pradesh Amaravati city project is progressing well with Singapore Consortium. We also recently launched Maharashtra-Singapore joint committee, to explore economic cooperation including planning and development of airport in Pune,” he said. Lee said India is a significant market for Singapore FinTech companies, while Singapore – as a global FinTech Hub – can be a gateway for India to enter the Southeast Asian market. The two countries have agreed to establish a Joint Working Group on FinTech to support this new effort, he added. He said Singapore, as the current ASEAN chair, will work with India to continue strengthening the regional architecture, and in particular to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Modi said Singapore has always been a source of foreign direct investment for India and also investments in foreign countries. It has also been a favourite destination for Indian investments abroad, he added.
“I am happy to note that Indian companies use Singapore as a spring board for not only this country but for the entire ASEAN region. For Singaporean companies, as India develops, opportunities are coming up,” he said. Recalling his meeting with CEOs yesterday, Modi said he was happy to see that top executives of many important companies looking at India with confidence. Modi said the air traffic between India and Singapore is growing rapidly and both countries will enter into a new ‘Air Service Agreement’ soon. He said the international launch of RuPay, BHIM and UPI based remittance app in Singapore yesterday represented Digital India initiative and the renewed partnership between the two sides.
Lee said Indian tourists will be able to use their RuPay cards for electronic payments at Changi airport and selected operators across Singapore. He said he looked forward to welcoming Modi back to Singapore in November for the East Asia Summit, and “to continue working with him to further deepen our cooperation bilaterally and regionally”. Modi, who arrived here yesterday on the last leg of his three-nation visit, earlier made a courtesy call on President Halimah Yacob after a welcome ceremony at the Istana where he was given a guard of honour. He earlier visited Indonesia and Malaysia.