India and Singapore signed a joint declaration on strategic partnership and nine accords on Tuesday, the concluding day of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to this city state, when he called Singapore the Asia’s lion.
Modi told the Indian diaspora at a gathering that development was his only task and pledged making the Indian tax regime more transparent and predictable.
Modi’s day began with a breakfast meeting with Singaporean leaders, met President Tony Tan and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. He witnessed the signing of the accords, attended a lunch hosted by Lee.
Modi laid a wreath at the INA memorial marker, visited the Institute of Technical Education involved in skill development, and addressed the India-Singapore Economic Convention.
Modi briefly met select CEOs and addressed the Indian diaspora whom he praised for building up India’s image.
The Indian prime minister then left for home late in the night.
Singapore was the second leg of his visit that earlier took him to Malaysia for the Asean-India Summit and the East Asia Summit.
According to an official statement, Modi and Lee signed the joint declaration to elevate bilateral relations to a “strategic partnership to deepen and broaden engagement in existing areas of cooperation and catalyse new ones ranging from political, defence and security cooperation to economic, cultural and people to people contact”.
Besides, two agreements on defence cooperation and loan of artefacts from India to Singapore, two executive programme/operationalisation documents on arts and culture, and white-shipping, and five memorandums of agreement (MoUs) on cyber security, civil aviation, knowledge exchange in the field of planning, urban planning, and combating drug trafficking were also signed.
The agreements were signed after talks between the two prime ministers here.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup later tweeted the two prime ministers noted the importance of culture between the two countries and encouraged more exhibitions, exchanges and interactions.
Modi and Lee noted their shared interest in furthering cooperation in the areas of science and technology, particularly in space, biomedicine and ayurveda, he aded.
The two prime ministers also released two postal stamps showing Rashtrapati Bhavan and Istana, the Singaporean presidential palace, marking 50 years of both countries’ diplomatic relations.
At lunch, Modi described Singapore as Asia’s economic lion that has been a major partner in India’s transformation.
“The Asiatic lion may now only be found in Gujarat. Asia’s economic lion is to be found here – in Singapore,” he said.
Lee said the diverse Indian community in Singapore has played a large part in building the country.
He said Singapore’s Indian pioneers include G. Sarangapany, who came here from Tamil Nadu in 1924, founded the Tamil “Murasu” newspaper, and sold it at one cent a copy so that the poor could read it too, Channel News Asia reported.
“Because of leaders like him, Singapore has today a thriving community of Indians who are well-integrated in our society and form an essential part of our multi-racial, multi-religious mix,” Lee said.
Addressing the diaspora, Modi said: “The entire world is reposing a lot of faith in India today and the reason behind this is not Modi, but the Indians settled abroad.”
“Wherever you have gone, you have made that country your own, irrespective of circumstances,” he added.
“I have to accomplish one task and that is development, development, development which wipes the tears of the poor, provides employment to youth, prosperity to farmers and empowerment to women,” Modi said.
Modi sought greater engagement of the diaspora in making the country strong, pointing to the large requirement of foreign direct investment
Addressing the Singaporean business community at the India-Singapore Economic Convention, Modi admitted there were still a number of regulatory and taxation issues in India.
He tried to hard sell the country’s business potential to Singapore’s corporate community, and assured that he will do the hand-holding when they come to India.
“In the past few months, the interest of foreign investors in India has gone up tremendously. However, there were a number of regulatory and taxation issues which were adversely impacting on their sentiments. We have taken very decisive steps to remove many of the long-pending concerns,” Modi said.
Modi expressed hope that the much-awaited goods and service tax regime would roll out from 2016.
He said India’s growth rate was 7.3 percent last year and the World Bank has projected even better growth this year.
Modi observed Singapore has emerged as the second largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) in India. “Outward Indian FDI to Singapore has also increased in recent times. Singapore is now one of the top destinations for Indian investments.”
“We are working hard to make sure that our tax regime is transparent and predictable. We are also keen to see that genuine investors and honest tax payers get quick and fair decisions on tax matters,” he said.
Modi also said in the last 18 months of the National Democratic Alliance-run government, reforms were happening in a “big way” and now reaching to the last mile.