[About this blog] Inspired by local soccer player Mike Lim during my rookie reporter days at Singapore Polytechnic, I set up this blog in August 2002. I feel that blogging is a novel platform to document interesting facets of my life and my thoughts on certain issues. [Email blogger] ephraim@singnet.com.sg

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

[Return to India]
1. Last year, during his bilateral visit to Singapore, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee and I agreed to hold ministerial consultations every year. I am here in Delhi for the inaugural consultation. It is a pleasure working with Shri Mukherjee. He is one of India's most well regarded political leaders, having served in different governments in different capacities. Unfailingly courteous, he is measured in his views and wise. I learn much from him. Our bilateral relations are excellent with cooperation now extending into defence, education and culture.

Meeting with Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee

2. India is making rapid strides. Despite many bottlenecks, the economy is already cantering along at 8-9% a year. With better logistics and physical infrastructure, it can also make double digits. But, as with all countries, there'll be up's and down's. Right now, inflation in fuel and food prices has become a serious political problem. Like China, the country has a huge reservoir of talent. Like China, it has a high savings rate. In recent years, the savings rates at the individual, corporate, state and federal levels have all gone up. Like China, India is fully capable of funding its own growth.

3. The re-emergence of these two giants on the global stage is a huge phenomenon. Their encounter with each other in the 21st century will be on all fronts, not just economic, but also political, cultural and philosophical. Meeting some young Indian MPs today, I was surprised that many had not been to China before. They need to engage each other much more. I floated this idea to them: why not establish reciprocal cheap rail travel for young people so that undergraduates can travel to each other's country, develop mutual understanding and make friends? (A kind of Asiarail linking the two biggest rail systems in the world.) Start with students from the top 50 or 100 universities. Of course, we in ASEAN must also make sure we are not left behind in preparing the next generation for an exciting new Asia.

4. I was not at all surprised that the Indian Government took care to ensure that the Olympic torch was well-protected when it was in Delhi last week. Sino-Indian relations are too important to be lightly trifled with.

Do also read my posts on Beyond SG


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