Singapore: Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan has praised India for its digital identity and payment systems and said that it is a “clear opportunity” for the country.

In Saturday’s statement after his meeting with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in Cambodia, Balakrishnan noted two basic areas including certain strengths which India has and economic integration.

“India has certain strengths – FinTech, digital finance, digital inclusion, and what they have done with digital identity and payment systems, is a clear opportunity for us,” the Singapore Foreign Minister said.

“In Singapore, of course, we have all those systems as well, but for the rest of Southeast Asia, to explore how we can interconnect our payment systems, our financial systems, in order to facilitate payments and expand opportunities for small businesses across the subcontinent and across into Southeast Asia,” he added.

Furthermore, Balakrishnan stated: “We are reviewing the ASEAN-India Trade in Goods Agreement to facilitate trade to facilitate customs clearance and to reduce the friction for the movement of goods between the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. We have got quite a lot of work there.”

The Foreign Minister also said that he had the chance to meet Jaishankar twice in the last couple of months and there will be more meetings.

India-Singapore relations are based on shared values and approaches, economic opportunities, and convergence of interests on key issues. Political engagement is regular. The defence relations are particularly strong. Economic and technological ties are extensive and growing.

Additionally, the cultural and human links between both nations are very vibrant. There are more than 20 regular bilateral mechanisms, dialogues, and exercises. There is great convergence on a broad range of international issues and both are members of a number of forums, including the East Asia Summit, G20, Commonwealth, IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association) and IONS (Indian Ocean Naval Symposium).

Singapore is India’s 6th largest trade partner (2020-21) with a share of 3.2 per cent of India’s overall trade. In 2021-22 (April – September 2021) bilateral trade stood at USD 14.2 billion.

In 2020-21, bilateral trade stood at USD 21.98 billion. The cumulative FDI inflows from Singapore to India stood at USD 118.39 billion (April 2000 -June 2021) which is 22 pc of total FDI inflows in India. Singapore was the largest source of FDI in India in 2018-19, 2019-20, and 2020-21.

During the second wave of the pandemic, Singapore’s position as a logistic hub enabled both the public and private sectors to source emergency relief supplies such as oxygen- tanks, cylinders, concentrators, and ventilators among others from Singapore to India. Till the end of June 2021, 26 Indian Air Force sorties and 4 Indian Navy Ships transported substantial quantities of these items from Singapore to India.

The close ties between India and Singapore have a history rooted in strong commercial, cultural and people-to-people links across a millennium.

India and Singapore added new momentum and direction to their Strategic Partnership in 2018, anchored in the official visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Singapore from May 31 to June 2, and his second visit on November 14-15 for attending the ASEAN-India and related Summits.

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