Singapore: India and Singapore further consolidated their strategic relations in 2021 despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, with high-level bilateral visits and meetings leading to increased collaboration in defence, information technology and cybersecurity that are likely to shape the future of both the countries.
Though the pandemic crippled the global business environment, the city-state has been one of the largest sources of foreign investment in India in 2020-2021. India received USD 81.72 billion as Foreign Direct Investment from Singapore in 2020-21, up 10 per cent from the previous financial year.
“Our bilateral trade with Singapore has recovered from the disruptions of the past year, and is on track to touch new heights,” the Acting Indian High Commissioner, Siddhartha Nath, told PTI as one of the most challenging years came to a close.
India-Singapore relations are based on shared values and approaches, economic opportunities and convergence of interests on key issues. Political engagement is regular. Defence relations are particularly strong. Economic and technological ties are extensive and growing. Cultural and human links are very vibrant.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s visit in November 2021 provided an opportunity for high-level discussions with Singapore on the range of bilateral and other issues of mutual interest.
During his three-day visit, Jaishankar called on Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and met top ministers, holding bilaterals and discussing the global environment hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The successful conclusion of our discussions on progressive restoration of bilateral air links, including the commencement of Vaccinated Travel Lane flights, was a matter of satisfaction, in view of the significance of people-to-people ties between our two countries,” Nath said.
Going into 2022, India and Singapore are collaborating in cutting edge areas that will shape the future in the context of accelerating technological disruption – fintech, information technology, cybersecurity, skill development, smart city solutions and renewable energy, to name a few.
“The exciting start-up environments in India and Singapore are also actively engaging with each other. There is great potential for cooperation in a wide range of other areas as well, such as increasing resilience of supply chains, logistics, skill development, infrastructure, waste and water management and urban planning.
“The strategic partnership between India and Singapore has shown its resilience and we look forward to further strengthening this important relationship in the coming year,” said Nath.
Singapore and India are also engaged in a long-run defence cooperation, and held the 28th edition of the Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise (SIMBEX) in September.
It is a bilateral and multilateral approach to work for a safer environment in the region.
In early September, India and Singapore have carried out a mega naval wargame in the southern fringes of the South China Sea over the last three days, in reflection of their growing congruence of interests in the strategically key region.
The Indian Navy deployed its guided-missile destroyer INS Ranvijay, anti-submarine warfare corvette INS Kiltan and guided-missile corvette INS Kora and one P8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft for the ‘SIMBEX’ exercise from September 2-4, officials said.
The Singapore Navy was represented by formidable class frigate RSS Steadfast, victory class missile corvette RSS Vigour, one Archer class submarine and one Fokker-50 maritime patrol aircraft, they said.
Four F-16 fighter aircraft of the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) also participated in the exercise during the air defence drills.
Additionally, an extended exercise was held along with Thailand.
The Singapore-India-Thailand Maritime Exercise (SITMEX) 21 exercise was held November 15-16 in the Andaman Sea.
The defence relationship was expanded into a strong support in ensuring India received critical medical equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Singapore as an important trading and logistics hub turned out to be useful for the Indian High Commission to source the much-needed supplies of Covid-19-related medical equipment, including oxygen tanks and cylinders.
In October, on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Rome, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Prime Minister Lee and appreciated Singapore’s outreach to provide Covid-19 assistance to India during the second wave.
Singapore’s support through agencies like the Ministry of Trade and Industry and Enterprise Singapore provided their database and contacts for the Indian High Commission to source all the necessary equipment from the region.
The Singapore government-linked companies have also donated equipment for use in India’s fight against the pandemic.
The state-owned Temasek Foundation, an active investor in India through its holdings company, had sent 8,000 oxygen concentrators, 100 oxygen cylinders, 50,000 pulse oximeters, over 100 BiPAPs and 200 ventilators to India.
DBS, which runs a wholly-owned bank in India, donated three oxygen tanks and Sea Group gave 750 oxygen cylinders, while Singapore Exchange donated money through Red Cross Singapore.
Some 255 oxygen cylinders were transported via two Republic of Singapore Air Force C-130 planes to West Bengal on April 28.
Indian-owned companies in Singapore, such as IOCL, GAIL, ITC, TATA Group, Adani, Reliance, Transworld Group and Executive Ship Management have also contributed equipment to the relief supplies.
The Singapore India Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Little India Shopkeepers and Heritage Association, Global Indian International School and several Indian community-based associations have also helped in source and financing equipment for India to fight COVID-19 pandemic.
The Indian diaspora in Singapore also stepped in to support India’s COVID-19 relief efforts. The Pan IIM Alumni raised more than SGD 5.4 million and the investor foundation community, The Indus Entrepreneurs’ Singapore chapter raised more than SGD 3 million.
Singapore’s Foreign Ministry and Defence Ministry gave quick clearances to Indian Naval ships and aircraft coming to Singapore Changi Naval Base and the Pay Lebar Air Base to ferry home the urgently needed supplies.
In the coming year, both the countries look forward to further strengthening their strategic partnership which has shown its resilience.
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