At 6.31 a.m. Indian Standard Time on the 31st of July, 2023, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) made history by successfully launching its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C56 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh. Onboard were seven Singaporean satellites.
This feat of human ingenuity would not have been possible without the lock-step partnership between Singapore and India. This mutual trust has a solid foundation. Singapore and India have historically shared the closest bilateral ties amongst countries in the region – India was one of the first to recognise us diplomatically, a mere two weeks after our independence in 1965.
The PSLV-C56 launch, and satellite placement, were a milestone in a year of many others. Notably, in February 2023, the Unified Payment Interface (UPI) – PayNow linkage was jointly launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. This saw Singapore becoming India’s very first cross-border, real-time payment partner, paving the way for others now. Prime Minister Lee has also just visited New Delhi to attend the G20 Summit, and we take pride in having been an active participant as a G20 invitee throughout India’s G20 Presidency. The success of this momentous G20 year would not have been possible without Prime Minister’s Modi’s leadership, and Singapore is happy to have contributed in our own small way.
Such a strong bilateral relationship did not come about by accident. It is the result of decades of nurturing by both countries. At the political-level, our leaders have consistently engaged each other at various fora. This includes the India-Singapore Ministerial Roundtable (ISMR), a new mechanism convened for the first time in September 2022, at the suggestion of Prime Minister Modi. The inaugural ISMR was hosted in New Delhi by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar, Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution and Textiles Minister Piyush Goyal. On Singapore’s end, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong, Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Trade and Industry Gan Kim Yong, and Minister for Transport and Minister-in-charge of Trade Relations S Iswaran attended the roundtable.
At the economic-level, we are India’s largest foreign investor by far: according to 2023 data from India’s Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), we accounted for almost a quarter of all FDI in-flows into India. Similarly, according to the Reserve Bank of India(RBI), Singapore was the largest source of Outward Direct Investment (ODI) from Indian companies in FY2022-2023, accounting for 22.3% of total ODI. Singapore is also India’s largest trade partner in ASEAN, accounting for 27.3% of all of India’s trade in the region.
This is no surprise, as we have always been one of the earliest believers in India’s economic potential. Companies on both sides have continued to engage actively. In August 2023, Singapore and Indian banks and companies successfully completed their first transaction under the TradeTrust Framework.
The TradeTrust project, which was implemented in close partnership between Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry, EnterpriseSingapore, Infocomm Media Development Authority, and India’s NITI Aayog, allows for companies to securely exchange Bills of Lading between Singapore and India electronically.
The pilot transaction involved DBS Bank, ICICI Bank, Jindal Stainless, Maptrasco, and Maersk, for a cargo shipment to Gujarat. This project will pave the way for enhanced Easeof-Doing-Business and more cost-efficient trade financing for businesses operating in both Singapore and India.
Given such strong momentum, built on decades of trust and mutual understanding, I am confident that our bilateral and economic interactions can only continue to flourish. We have only scratched the surface of the deep complementarity between our two countries. As India powers ahead, Singapore stands ready to partner it to co-innovate and co-operate, especially in areas like Food Security, Energy Security, Digitalisation, Green Technology, Skills Development, and other novel fields.
(Cheong Ming Foong is Consul-General of the Republic of Singapore in Mumbai)