External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived in Singapore on Friday on a two-day visit during which she will hold talks with the top leadership of Singapore including the Prime Minister to explore ways to further enhance cooperation in a range of areas such as trade and investment, water conservation and infrastructure development.
During her stay in Singapore, Swaraj will hold talks with her counterpart K Shanmugam apart from flagging off year-long celebration to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between the two nations and meetings with think-tanks and vibrant Indian diaspora.
The External Affairs Minister will also call on Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien. Swaraj's visit is aimed at exploring the possibility of Singapore's involvement in major Indian infrastructure projects including the Smart City project and also whether it can participate in rejuvenation of other Indian cities.
In the budget, the new Indian government had proposed to develop 100 'smart cities' as satellite towns of larger cities and allocated Rs 7,060 crore for the ambitious project. Singapore is India's largest trading partner in the ASEAN grouping. It is also the source of highest FDI to India which was $5.9 billion last year.
Singapore is also the destination of highest Indian investments abroad during the last decade. It houses 4,000-4,500 Indian companies who have offices in Singapore. Swaraj's visit will be followed by that of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje, Telengana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu later this month. Swaraj will also try to obtain Singapore's cooperation in various other infrastructure projects.
The External Affairs Minister will also look for cooperation with Singapore in replicating its water conservation and recycling projects in some of the big cities in India.
Approximately, 30% of Singapore's water supply comes from recycling of water and rain-water harvesting. Economic and commercial ties between India and Singapore have expanded significantly, particularly after the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) in 2005.
Singapore has become a preferred centre of operations for Indian companies active in the Asia Pacific region. Combined with a good enabling environment, strong air connectivity and the presence of a large Indian community, Singapore has emerged as a key offshore logistic and financial hub for many Indian corporate houses.
A number of Indian banks including Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank, UCO Bank, Indian Bank, Axis Bank, and State Bank of India, ICICI, EXIM Bank and Bank of Baroda are operating in the country.
The ethnic Indians constitute about 9.2% of the total population of 5.1 million, including permanent residents. Tamil is one of the four official languages of Singapore.
Singapore Prime Minister Hsien had paid a state visit to India in July 2012. During the visit, the two sides had renewed the Bilateral Agreement for the Conduct of Joint Military Training and Exercises.