Home/ Politics / Policy/  Singapore offers help in building smart cities

New Delhi: Singapore, India’s largest trade partner in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), has offered its expertise in building smart cities and imparting skills to young people—two key priorities of the Narendra Modi government.

In New Delhi for talks with the recently installed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government, Singapore’s foreign minister K. Shanmugam on Tuesday also offered his country’s expertise in the hospitality industry to help boost jobs and skills in Asia’s third-largest economy.

Shanmugam, who is on a five-day visit to India and expects to travel to Hyderabad and Chennai, is one of several foreign ministers who have visited India after the new government took charge on 26 May.

Briefing reporters about his meetings on the first day of his visit, Shanmugam said he had wide ranging discussions with his counterpart Sushma Swaraj.

“Our thinking is that we need to look at India’s priorities and see what it is that Singapore can do in the context of those priorities," he said. “We talked about partnering India to exchange experiences, share our own experiences on urban solutions, urban management in the context of the smart cities that the Indian government is planning. It’s got to be private sector-led...we could identify one or two cities and do it as a template work with India and that can then be multiplied, scaled up by others," he said.

In its election manifesto for the April-May elections, the BJP spoke of building 100 new cities, construction of twin cities and satellite townships with integrated waste management and efficient public transportation. The party also spoke of providing skills to young Indians through vocational training, and focusing on digital empowerment.

Given that the new government is “less constrained by the circumstances of coalition", there is a “considerable degree of optimism because the government has the numbers in parliament", the Singapore minister said.

“The basic point is whether you talk about actions in the field of economics or in the field of strategic dialogue and interaction, there are less constraints on the government. But I think we all recognize the government’s priorities will be —must be—in the first place upliftment of the man on the street," he said.

On helping young Indians achieve their potential, Shanmugam said India can reap the benefits of its demography “if the young population is skilled up" and proposed more skill development centres in India.

Shanmugam described India-Singapore relations as “good" and said his conversation with Swaraj was on “how to take this further". He said Singapore’s defence minister Ng Eng Hen will visit India next month followed by a visit by former Singapore prime minister Goh Chok Tong in September. India and Singapore share a special defence cooperation relationship with Singapore’s army and air force using Indian bases for training.

The two prime ministers—Narendra Modi of India and Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore—could meet on the sidelines of a summit of the Group of 20 (G-20) countries in Australia later this year, Shanmugam said.

On economic relations, Shanmugam said Singapore was India’s largest trade partner within the Asean grouping, with bilateral commerce worth approximately $22 billion in 2012-13, according to Indian foreign ministry figures. India’s trade with the Asean in the same period was over $71.6 billion. Shanmugam said his talks with Swaraj also included a review of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CECA) signed in 2005. “We both agreed that the review of the CECA should be concluded as quickly as possible. Its been outstanding for longer than it needs to be. There are a couple of issues and we discussed those issues," he said.

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Updated: 01 Jul 2014, 11:16 PM IST
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