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World calls India, says Singapore Minister

By P. S. Suryanarayana

SINGAPORE, JULY 9 . "As India calls the world, ... the world calls India." This is how a Singapore Minister today added a new and positive nuance to the strategic theme of an "India business summit" here.

The theme of the two-day summit, being organised by the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry [SICCI], in association with the Mumbai-based Indian Merchants' Chamber [IMC], is "India Calling 2004."

At the inaugural session, the Singapore Minister of State for Trade and Industry and Foreign Affairs, Raymond Lim, expressed confidence that the City State would continue to play a useful role "as India calls the world, and the world calls India." The conference is being held for the first time outside India in the IMC's "India Calling" series, in the name and style of "Asia Pacific business summit." Mr. Lim noted that India was now "reaching out beyond the Indian diaspora."

A "global business leaders' colloquium" was held as part of the inaugural ceremony after the SICCI chairman, M. Rajaram, and the IMC president, Nanik Rupani, besides India's Acting High Commissioner to Singapore, Ravi Bangar, set the tone. Speakers turned the spotlight on not only the ways in which India was now engaging the international investors but also its strategies in comparison with those of China.

Optimism was expressed by some participants that the proposed Singapore-India comprehensive economic cooperation agreement (CECA) would be clinched, even if there be a "slight delay" due to the logistical compulsions of the new Government in India. Singapore's status as "a hub to raise capital" was also emphasised.

Making a comparative study of the "India and China models" of attracting foreign direct investment (FDI), an economist, Joseph Tan, said a "bipolar Asia" was now "emerging" in the business sphere as a result of the economic strategies of these two countries. A point made was that "what China is to manufacturing, India is to services." This ensured that the "two poles are not really competing head-on." The China-India competitiveness was put in a different perspective at another session on IT and telecommunications. India and China, in that order, were cited as the main architects of the Silicon Valley.

While Rajesh Kapadia, partner, G.M. Kapadia & Company, chaired the business session on "asset management and insurance," Vijay Iyengar, Managing Director, Agrocorp, piloted the discussions on "manufacturing and trading" in the "agro and food-processing" sectors. Noel Hon Chia Chun, chairman, NEC Singapore, presided over the session on IT, while N. Varaprasad, deputy president, National University of Singapore, chaired the session on "education."

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