Diaspora meet in Singapore highlights business opportunities in India

October 11th, 2008 - 11:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Singapore, Oct 11 (IANS) Overseas Indians from more than 20 countries Saturday ended a three-day meet in Singapore pledging to take advantage of new opportunities in trade and investment offered by a booming Indian economy. Bringing together more than 700 members of the Indian diaspora from all parts of the globe to Singapore at the time of a deep global financial crisis was no mean feat, but the organizers of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas-Singapore pulled it off with aplomb.

The conference was organised by the Singapore Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SICCI) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) with strong backing from the governments of India and Singapore.

Describing the conference as “the best advertisement for India”, Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said it had seen a high level of participation and extensive discussions on the challenges and opportunities in doing business with India.

“Holding the Pravasi Bharatiya conference in Singapore sends a very strong message: India is an attractive destination and those who invest in India will reap rich dividends,” Ravi said.

He invited conference participants to attend in even larger numbers the next Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) meeting, the annual conference of Indian diaspora, scheduled to be held in Chennai in January 2009.

Singapore’s Senior Minister for Trade and Industry S. Iswaran said the conference was “stimulating, at times amusing, but never boring”.

The PBD (Singapore) had been a very positive experience, enabling the Indian diaspora to network and develop links to leverage the enormous potential unleashed by the sharp growth of the Indian economy,” Iswaran said.

India has distinctive tourism offerings, such as Buddhist tourism, with significant potential in East and Southeast Asia. However, for tourism to take off, India had to improve and add to the existing infrastructure of hotels, transportation and communication links, Iswaran pointed out.

It needed sharp marketing so that people living in Singapore and other countries of the region could choose destinations in India for short, three- or four-day getaways, he said, adding that this could happen only if hotels were in place and air connectivity was made easy.

“We would like to see open skies between India and Singapore. Once this happens, the benefits will follow both in the form of greater business-to-business interactions, tourist traffic and bilateral trade,” Iswaran maintained.

Singapore, with its geographic location at the centre of the region, its wide network of financial institutions and its multiple free trade agreements with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, could serve as a launching pad for Indian businesses, the minister said.

“Singapore has Free Trade Agreements with many countries including the United States, China, Japan and the rest of the ASEAN countries. Indian companies can tap into Singapore’s significant economic connectivity,” the minister said.

Earlier, India’s Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal made an impassioned plea to the countries in the region to opt for sustainable development to counter the three challenges facing humankind: food security, energy security and health security.

The conference was also the occasion for the launch of Singapore’s first newspaper for the Indian community. Titled “Tabla”, the tabloid is aimed at the 200,000-strong Indian diaspora living in the city-state.

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