pm lee hsien loong
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong Reuters

As the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit kicks off in New Delhi on Thursday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called on the two sides to further strengthen ties by enhancing trade, investments and connectivity.

"Asean and India should redouble efforts to promote trade and investment. We need to keep existing pathways up to date and relevant, including the AIFTA," Lee said in an op-ed article on The Straits Times.

Lee suggested the two sides should work together to conclude a high-quality Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), surpassing the existing AIFTA. This would create an integrated Asian market comprising nearly half the world's population and a third of the world's GDP.

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Lee suggested working closely with India to boost physical connectivity, including by expeditiously concluding the Asean-India Air Transport Agreement.

"This will enhance people-to-people flows across the region and help both Indian and Asean carriers to tap new and emerging markets, especially for business, investment and tourism," said Lee.

Digital connectivity

Digital connectivity is another important area of cooperation, highlighted Lee. It can shape people-to-people connections for the future. India's Aadhaar system creates many new opportunities, for instance, to harmonise Singapore's Fintech platforms or connect e-payment systems, added Lee.

Asean-India trade has risen steadily from US$2.9 billion in 1993 to US$58.4 billion in 2016. The two have a combined population of 1.8 billion, representing one quarter of the world's population.