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Updated: April 23, 2010 22:58 IST

Singapore for deepening ties with India

    T. Ramakrishnan
    Meera Srinivasan
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S. Iswaran, Singapore's senior Minister of Trade, Industry and Education, interacting with senior journalists at the office of The Hindu in Chennai on Thursday. Photo: V. Ganesan
The Hindu S. Iswaran, Singapore's senior Minister of Trade, Industry and Education, interacting with senior journalists at the office of The Hindu in Chennai on Thursday. Photo: V. Ganesan

Singapore has developed expertise in a whole range of urban solutions such as water, sewage or waste management, low-cost public housing and transport systems management, all of which may be relevant to Tamil Nadu or Chennai, according to S. Iswaran, Singapore's Senior Minister of Trade, Industry and Education.

In his interaction with senior journalists at the headquarters of The Hindu group of publications on Thursday, Mr. Iswaran referred to the collaborative venture on the Cooum river restoration project, for which the Chennai Rivers Restoration Trust and the Singapore Cooperation Enterprise of the Singapore government signed a memorandum of understanding last month.

In such areas, the two sides could share their experiences and derive benefits mutually, the Minister said, adding that the “long historical, cultural and linguistic ties” between Tamil Nadu and Singapore created a “natural opportunity” to work together.

Following Deputy Chief Minister M.K. Stalin's visit to Singapore last year on his invitation, the framework for the collaboration was worked out. (According to the Tamil Nadu government's official documents, the MoU was signed for the preparation of a comprehensive master plan for the river restoration and the provision of technical assistance and training during implementation.)

Terming the goodwill and political relationship between Singapore and India very strong, Mr. Iswaran said the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) between the two countries had created a base that facilitated a lot of growth in trade and investment flows in both directions. There had been significant deals such as Tata Steel coming and buying over Natsteel in Singapore. About 3,000 Indian businesses — small and medium sized — were incorporated and operating out of the south-east Asian country.

The Singapore Telecom (SingTel) had an investment stake in Bharti. “So, I think it is happening both ways. What we need to do is really work towards the further deepening of the ties between the two countries,” he said.

To a query whether Singapore was open to Indian institutions setting up campuses there, the Minister replied that if quality Indian institutions were interested to come to Singapore, the Ministry of Education would be happy to engage them in a dialogue.

Welcoming the State government's move to hold the World Classical Tamil Conference in Coimbatore, Mr. Iswaran said such an initiative would bring the Tamil diaspora together. Tamil groups in his country were keen to participate and they had registered themselves with the organisers of the meet. He would represent the Singaporean government at the conference.

Noting that the Tamil language had a clear official backing in his country, the Minister said the Tamil-speaking community in Singapore was very focussed on the whole idea of sustaining Tamil a living language, particularly among younger generation.

Later, he called on the Deputy Chief Minister and discussed the Cooum restoration project with him and senior officials of the State government.

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