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India – Singapore`s hot new destination

India is now a hot new destination for Singapore government leaders, with both nations now in the final…

India is now a hot new destination for Singapore government leaders, with both nations now in the final stages of negotiating an ambitious free trade pact, which is expected to be ready in two months.

Blame it on the latest travel bug that is sweeping the corridors of power in Singapore, almost every month one Singapore minister is in India, the latest being trade and industry minister, George Yeo, who is now on an official visit.

His visit, beginning Wednesday to Feb 21, will focus on promoting tourism co-operation between the two countries following an earlier discussions he had with Indian Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani and Indian Minister for Tourism and Culture, Jagmohan.

India has decided to turn eastwards. This is the key reason why relations between India and Singapore are growing from strength to strength, Yeo said at a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) event in New Delhi, Wednesday.

He said the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca), an ambitious free trade agreement (FTA), now being negotiated between the two nations, would make Singapore the eastward extension of India into East Asia.

From a historical perspective, this restores an old relationship when the British East India Company established from Bengal a trading post in Singapore for the China trade, he said in his speech, the text of which was released here.

At the first Asean-India forum here last week, Singapore`s Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, said that India had now become a hot destination for government bigwigs from Singapore.

If you look at our travel schedules, almost every month one of us in India, he said, adding that he would be in India every six months.

Last month, Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong`s commercially-focused 10-day visit to India made headlines in Indian and Singapore newspapers.

At the CII event in New Delhi today, Yeo recalled that when the Ceca was announced less than two years ago, there was considerable scepticism in the West about India`s commitment to the opening up of its markets.

Ceca, he stressed, was not an isolated one-off initiative, but one of a series of moves to establish a new strategic position for India in Asia.

Singapore is India`s largest trading partner and investor from Asean. There are more than 150 flights between India and Singapore every week, more than what India has with any other country in the region. Many of these flights are fully booked, said Yeo.

He cited Singapore Telecommunications Ltd (Singtel)`s US$650 million joint venture with Bharti, which remained one of the largest single investments in India.

Singapore companies are on a constant lookout for new opportunities in India, be it in IT, housing, industrial parks, logistics, healthcare or education, he said.

In recent months, Singapore government`s investment vehicle, Temasek Holdings Ltd had invested more than US$300 million in ICICI Bank and two leading drug companies, he noted.

India`s presence in Singapore is also growing dramatically, said Yeo, adding that as a matter of policy, the city-state had opened its doors to Indian talent and large numbers have come.

He said, all of India`s top 20 IT companies have a presence in Singapore, including TCS, Satyam and Infosys. (BERNAMA)

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