SINGAPORE: Singapore and India have agreed to cooperate in several new areas, ranging from food and energy security, green technology to digital connectivity, Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong said on Tuesday (Sep 20).
Speaking to journalists after a five-day visit to India, he added that the inaugural India-Singapore Ministerial Roundtable can serve as the platform for regular meetings between both sides and to coordinate new areas of partnership moving forward.
Mr Wong, who is also Finance Minister, said Singapore has been in talks with India on how to strengthen the relationship between both countries, but the COVID-19 pandemic put many of these plans on hold for the past two and a half years.
“With the COVID situation improving in both our countries, we were able to resume discussions,” he said, adding that both countries eventually decided on a new high-level ministerial roundtable as a way to strengthen cooperation.
“That’s why I was very happy this time to be able to come here to launch the roundtable and to meet with my counterparts.
“We had very candid, very wide-ranging discussions across a wide range of areas, and we also agreed on several new areas of cooperation, including on food and energy security, on green technology, particularly green hydrogen, on digital connectivity and skills development,” he said.
Mr Wong noted that Singapore and India have “complementary strengths” in several areas.
Citing financial technology (fintech) as an example, he described India as having “considerable potential” given its efforts in digitalisation and “explosive growth” in the start-up space.
Singapore has also been growing its fintech ecosystem. While Singapore may be “a much smaller market”, the country serves the broader region given its role as a financial centre, said Mr Wong.
This means possibilities for both sides to collaborate in fintech – an area that will be given a boost by the new agreement signed by the Monetary Authority of Singapore and India’s International Financial Services Centres Authority over the weekend.
“(Fintech companies) can experiment, they can test, they can innovate through a regulatory sandbox in both Gift City (Gujarat International Finance Tec-City) and Singapore, and potentially scale their solutions in both jurisdictions,” he added.
Mr Wong also expressed his hopes for the high-level ministerial roundtable, held for the first time as part of his visit, to be an annual event moving forward.
“We want the ministerial roundtable to be a standing arrangement for ministers on both sides to meet on a regular basis,” he added, although he stressed that the meeting will take on a “flexible” format that can adapt to changing needs and demands.
For example, the Deputy Prime Minister was joined by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong, and Minister for Transport and Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations S Iswaran at the roundtable. The Singapore ministers met their Indian counterparts in the three areas of foreign affairs, finance and trade and industry, but future meetings could include more ministers depending on the areas discussed, said Mr Wong.
The ministers were also joined by business leaders from both countries this time.
“We are working out the frequency of the meetings, but it is likely to be an annual event. The format of it – who are the participating ministers, whether business delegations are joining us – these are things that we will evolve and adjust from year to year,” Mr Wong said.