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Singapore, India forge closer ties

By
C.J. HWU

SINGAPORE, Sept. 9 -- Indian Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao wrapped up a three-day visit to Singapore Friday, raising hopes of increased trade and contacts between the two Asian nations and beyond. Twelve projects worth over $533 million were signed between Singapore and Indian companies during Rao's visit. Singapore is India's 10th largest trading partner. Bilateral trade last year increased by 9.3 percent to over $1.7 billion. In the frist five months of 1994, bilateral increased by 13 percent to almost $867 million, officials said. 'Singapore would like to see Indian companies investing in Singapore and through Singapore invest in the region like China, Vietnam, Burma, Indonesia and so on,' Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong said. The Indian prime minister's visit followed a similar trip to India in January 1993 by the Singapore leader, which triggered interest in the subcontinent region by local businessmen. 'My visit to India sparked off a mild Indian fever and I believe this visit has raised the temperature of the fever,' said Goh. 'Through this cooperation in the investment field, trade so on will become much better.' The chairman of the Indian Business Interaction Group, Davinder Singh, said things have moved very far in Singapore-Indian economic relations. 'A signal has been sent to businessmen both in India and Singapore that there are opportunities found in both countries as well as in third countries,' he told reporters. Both parties have the same concerns about how the business climate can be improved to enable them to strike business deals and implement programs, he said.

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The faster things changed domestically in India, the faster would be the inflow of investment from Singapore, he said. Earlier, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew compared India's ecnomic reforms to those in China. 'Prime Minister Rao has launched fundamental changes that can be as lasting as those of Deng Xiaoping's in China,' he said in the strongest endorsement to date on business opportunities in India. 'India had always been oriented toward the West. All the major invasions, including the British, came from the West. Southeast and East Asia barely figured in Indian consciousness. Now Prime Minister Rao has got India to look east, toward the dynamism of Asia Pacific,' Lee said. In a speach Thursday night, Rao said India has no expansionist designs in the Asia-Pacific region but would like to use the area as a springboard into the global marketplace. 'There is no cause whatever for the alarmist views propounded about India's alleged expansionist designs or its blue water navy,' he said.

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