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May 27, 2017

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Singapore hopes to work with new India government: prime minister

Singapore hopes to work with India in the areas of urban and port development, water and sewage projects, as well as education and training, prime minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday night.

He noted that newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi "came in with a thumping mandate," and has a majority in the Lok Sabha, India's lower house of Parliament, which is "something that has not happened for a very, very long time."

He was speaking at the gala dinner of the Indian Institutes of Management (IIM) alumni conference, where he spent an hour answering questions from the audience on developments in the region and in Singapore.

Over 1,000 alumni from the IIM network of publicly run, prestigious business schools in India are here as leaders in multinational and major Indian companies.

"There are great hopes for India to take the next step forward. India is a massive country so you do not expect transformation within 100 days.

"But we do hope that it will be going in a positive upward and accelerated direction, connecting to the world, fulfilling its potential, attracting investments, engaging with the global trading system, and playing a role, also strategically, in the wider region," said Lee.

"Between Singapore and India, we have (a) very good base to work upon. We have a closed economic cooperation agreement, which was in fact the first such bilateral agreement India had signed with any country in the world.

"And we hope that on that basis we can move forward. Our ministers have been visiting India, your ministers have been visiting Singapore," he said, adding that he hoped to meet Modi before the year is over.

He also encouraged India to play a bigger regional role by joining more free trade agreements:

"We'd like to see that India is able to spare the bandwidth and focus to extend their reach, influence and engage with the region and benefit from it."

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