Youth Forum on Foreign Policy, an independent and non-partisan initiative instituted to promote substantive dialogue on India’s foreign policy amongst the youth, organized an interactive dialogue in collaboration with the Singapore High Commission, as part of its Embassy Dialogue Series, on the 15th of September, the agenda for which was India – Singapore relations: Aspects of the Past and Future. The panel comprised of Mr. Gaurav Gogoi, Member of Parliament and co-founder at YFFP, Mr. Srinath Raghavan, senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, Ms. Nisha Kaur Uberoi, partner at Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas and head of the Mumbai Competition Law Practice, and Mr. Deep K Datta-Ray, assistant Professor at Jindal School of International Affairs.
The event was moderated by Dr. WPS Sidhu, senior Fellow for Foreign Policy at the Brookings India Centre and Brookings Institution. The audience comprised an eclectic mix of people, with a delegation from the Ministry of External Affairs of Singapore, representatives of various embassies, and students from various disciplines and colleges in Delhi. The event commenced with a short introduction by Mr. Darrel Chua, First Political Secretary, after which Mr. Sidhu briefly spoke about the past and present prospects between India and Singapore. Mr. Sidhu initiated the interactive dialogue by outlining the areas of collaboration between India and Singapore – economic, political and defence – and went on to provide an overview of India-Singapore relations. Mr. Gogoi attributed the prevalence of a strong cultural diplomacy and a presence of mongoloid decent as a commonality between Northeast India and Singapore.
Mr. Gogoi further spoke about the look east policy as a source of development in the Northeast, and emphasized its role in further strengthening ties between India and Singapore by projecting rail and air connectivity in these areas. He also spoke about making India a more investment friendly country through sustainable policy reforms and technological development and transparency. Mr. Raghavan pointed out the strong interplay of external players in South Asia, such as China and USA. He further laid emphasis on the TPP, India’s stand vis-à-vis the South China Sea issue and the model of regional and security architecture.
Mr. Raghavan also spoke about the growth of competitive federalism in recent times and the Singapore model of smart cities being adopted in Andhra Pradesh and other states in India. Mr. Deep K. Datta-Ray spoke about India’s changing attitude towards China as a partner rather than a threat and the effect of this shift of ideology in its foreign relations. Ms. Nisha Kaur Uberoi spoke extensively on the need of greater convergence between India and Singapore in the economic realm. Ms. Uberoi further spoke about India as an anchor for China in Asia and not as a counter balance. The growing disparity of investment between states and how it can be tackled was elucidated by Ms. Uberoi. The floor was then opened to questions.
These questions addressed issues such as viability of rail connectivity, parameters of regional architecture, and the role of individual states in attracting FDI. Lastly, Mr. Sidhu laid emphasis on conflict prevention and conflict resolution as imperative aspects of the security architecture. The question-answer session was followed by a reception, where all the speakers were available for further interaction. The audience also got the opportunity to interact with Mr. Lim Thuan Kuan, High Commissioner of Singapore to India. The event was a significant contribution to YFFP’s mission of bringing foreign policy issues into the ambit of youth groups and to engage the youth in debates with scholars and policymakers.