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S'pore agrees to set up third skills centre in India

The Straits Times, New Delhi, 2 November 2017 - Centre in Assam will train up to 400 students a year in beauty, retail, hospitality, F&B services.

Singapore has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Assam state government to set up a skills training centre in its capital, Guwahati, to train up to 400 students annually.

It will be the third such Singapore-linked centre in India.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan and Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal witnessed the signing of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) to set up the North East Skills Centre in Guwahati. The MOU was signed by the Singapore High Commissioner to India Lim Thuan Kuan and Assam state government principal secretary Ashutosh Agnihotri. They also signed the terms of reference for the skills centre.

"Singapore is happy to contribute to India's development and its 'Act East' initiative, which seeks closer cooperation between India and South-east Asia," Dr Balakrishnan posted on Facebook.

The new centre which, according to the MOU, "offers affordable and high-quality skills training for the masses, especially the rural youth", will offer courses on beauty and wellness, retail services, hospitality operations (housekeeping) and food and beverage services.

In addition, Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (SCE) yesterday inked an MOU with the Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority to "tap on Singapore's expertise in urban management, particularly in the development of open spaces and park connector networks in Guwahati", said an SCE release.

India and Singapore share close political and economic ties, with the island state among the top foreign investors in India. Skills training, in particular, has emerged as a key area of cooperation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi keen on replicating Singapore's success with vocational training in India, which is often seen only as a last resort in the country for those unable to get a college degree.

The new centre in Guwahati also reflects Singapore's push to establish links with north-east India, which Mr Modi is keen to develop as a gateway to South-east Asia.

On Tuesday, Dr Balakrishnan also spoke about how Singapore would continue to support closer India-Asean ties at a talk jointly organised by the National University of Singapore's Institute of South Asian Studies and the Confederation of Indian Industry.

He urged India to engage more deeply with Asean and increase aviation and maritime links.

"India needs to boldly liberalise its air services," he said, noting that it would boost tourism.

Dr Balakrishnan also noted that Singapore investments in India - which includes air carrier Vistara, a joint venture between Singapore Airlines and Tata Sons, and Sembcorp's power plant in Andhra Pradesh - were proof that Singapore "believed in India and India's potential and India's future".

"Singapore has always been a believer in India's role in Asia and in Asean... I can say with all honesty that we have always spoken up for India, we have always encouraged India to engage us and always done our best to ensure there is a seat at the table," he said.

In New Delhi on Tuesday, Dr Balakrishnan co-chaired the fifth meeting of the India-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee for bilateral cooperation with his Indian counterpart, Ms Sushma Swaraj. The foreign minister concluded his two-day visit yesterday.


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