KOLKATA – Calling for greater economic integration between India and South-east Asia, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the “sky is the limit” if India and Asean can double or quadruple their GDPs over the next 20 years.
“At that level of potential, we will be a vibrant, essential pillar of the world,” he added.
Asean countries and India collectively have more than two billion people – over a quarter of the global population – and a total gross domestic product (GDP) of nearly US$6 trillion (S$8.3 trillion).
Speaking yesterday evening at the ministerial session of the 12th Delhi Dialogue, an annual event that aims to strengthen Asean-India relations, Dr Balakrishnan identified three key factors necessary to realise this goal: a rules-based international order that takes into account Asia’s aspirations; fulfilment of trade and investment potential; and the effective leveraging of digital technologies.
He said there is a need for a “universally accepted rules-based world order”, in which all parties big or small have an equal say, and which ensures superpowers “will assess that it is in their own enlightened self-interest to restrain themselves and to act according to international law”.
Noting how India and Singapore have been able to deepen their economic linkages, he said: “Can you imagine when India is fully connected to the entire South-east Asia in the same way that we have made a start between Singapore and India? Can you imagine the trade flows, the investment flows, the investment in infrastructure and connectivity?”
A digital revolution implies a complete revamp of means of production as well as wealth generation, he added, noting India’s “natural lead” in digital technologies.
“If we can complement India’s capability and also the latent, nascent abilities and markets in South-east Asia, then we can really remake not just the next two decades but, I hope, at least the next half-century and beyond.”