Singapore to help India build 100 ‘smart cities’

PrimMinisteSINGAPORE: Having allocated over Rs 7,000 crores in its recent budget for development of 100 ‘smart cities’, India has roped in Singapore for providing its expertise in this even as the two countries decided to step up economic engagement besides defense and security cooperation.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj concluded a hectic 24-hour visit here with an understanding with this city-state to identify concrete projects in skills development and rejuvenation of Indian cities which would include ‘smart cities’.

The concept of ‘smart cities’ as satellite towns of larger ones was enunciated in last month’s budget by the new NDA government which has allocated a sum of Rs 7,060 crore for the ambitious plan.

“Singapore’s expertise in smart cities, urban planning and water management strategies offer a valuable learning experience for India. We shall work for setting up greenfield smart cities and for urban rejuvenation. Our experts shall identify the priorities and we shall coordinate its timely delivery,” Swaraj said before leaving for New Delhi.

Swaraj, who has undertaken visits to neighboring countries Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal in recent weeks, spent the day holding meetings with Singapore’s leadership including Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong and her counterpart K Shanmugam.

She kicked off year-long celebrations to mark 50 years of establishment of India-Singapore diplomatic ties jointly with Shanmugam who noted that India was one of the first countries to give diplomatic recognition to Singapore.

Swaraj said, “We look forward to Singapore companies to speed up connectivity and infrastructure projects in India, particularly, along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC), the Chennai-Bangalore Industrial Corridor and the North-East. Singapore could develop a virtual city or a ‘little Singapore’ somewhere along the corridor.”

Noting that Singapore was not only India’s largest trading partner in ASEAN, but also one of the largest sources of foreign investment in India, she also proposed that the two countries should explore prospects for cooperative projects in third countries.

As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations, President Pranab Mukherjee and his Singapore counterpart Tony Tan would exchange state visits next year.

The annual bilateral trade has flourished in the last decade from USD 4.2 billion in 2003-04 to around USD 19.4 billion in 2013-14, notably since the signing of the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) in 2005.

A joint statement issued after talks between Swaraj and Shanmugam said, “Both ministers expressed the hope that the negotiations for the Second Review of the CECA would be completed expeditiously, which would send a positive signal to the business community.”

The Ministers also reaffirmed the importance of ASEAN’s centrality in the regional architecture as well as the growing and wide-ranging cooperation between ASEAN and India.

They looked forward to the signing of the Free Trade Agreement in Services and Investment between ASEAN and India by the end of 2014. -PTI