India very much on minds of Singaporeans


Book: India On Our Minds

Editors: Tommy Koh and Hernaikh Singh

Publisher: World Scientific | Pages: 362 |ISBN: 9789811224904 | Price: US$38, GBP35

India On Our Minds (Editors: Tommy Koh and Hernaikh Singh) – Photo: Asia Samachar
By Asia Samachar Team | SINGAPORE |

As a trading nation, what happens at large economies like the US, China and India will impact Singapore. So, it is no surprise that Singapore keeps a close watch on what happens in those markets. Hence, newly launched book, ‘India On Our Minds’, is an attestation to that mindset.

“Singapore was an early believer in India’s immense potential,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a speech at the launch of the 362-page book on 7 Dec 2020.

The book, containing 50 articles written by 52 Singaporeans, attempts to capture the past and the present, and a peek into the future.

If you’ve been to India before, you would enjoy Erliana Abdul Rahman’s short musing entitled ‘Red ambassador, Parathas and Other Joys’.

“India changed me. This was where the Gini coefficient was no longer some abstract theory,” she writes. How true. For those who been to India, they can understand clearly when she says that the vast nation of 1.35 billion people is not limited to ‘charity or poverty pornography’, but so much more.

“When I get on a video conference call with my friends during this current lockdown, I am struck bu their resilience and derring-do. Indians have a term for their creative problem-solving skills: jugaad in Hindi, which loosely translates to having a ‘flexible and innovative approach to solving a problem with using limited resources.’ I have not seen a calmer, more creative lot when the situation warrants it.”

The former Singapore political counsellor writes beautifully. She should have captured more of her experience, both as a diplomat from 2011 to 2014, and then a year when she worked with Nobel laurete Kailas Satyarhi.

The book also carries some valuable nuggets in the ‘Joys and sorrows of investing in India’ penned by Sat Pal Khattar. He captured some of the broad issues one may face when taking a plunge to do business in India. After resigning from Singapore inland revenue service in 1974, Khattar floated a law firm which subsequently grew into the republic’s largest law firm in the form of KhattarWong. He was also captain of his private investment firm called Khattar Holdings.

Khattar talks about his involvement in the Radisson Hotel, intellectual property challenge when taking Tiger Balm products to the Indian shore, his ‘most successful’ Indian investment in HDFC Bank and his involvement in Gateway Distriparks Ltd which eventually became the ‘largest and most successful container facility in the private sector in India’.

“We have some success, plenty of frustrations, a fair amount of angst and lots of experience to match. These are an integral part of the joys and sorrows of investing in India.” cautions Khattar who received the Padma Shri award in 2011, making him the first Singaporean to receive the fourth highest Indian civilian award. If one were to have an open and frank sit down with him, you can imagine the wealth of information that one can acquire. For now, the article has captured some bits of them.

Zulkifli Baharuddin, the executive chairman of Indo-Trans Logistics Corporation, makes some comparison between India and China, basing it on his own experience in both the major economies.

“In India, one can only be bowled over by the its promises and presentations which are all too familiar by now. The immediate reality of stretched timelines and cavalier attitudes to the promises and commitments and the myriad of regulatory hurdles soon become a daily pre-occupation of new entrants into the country,” he writes.

Singapore journalist Vikram Khanna also touches on the major global economies in his article ‘Why India’s economies has fallen so far behind China’s’.

‘How Singaporeans perceive Indians’, written by Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) in National University of Singapore (NUS) chairman Gopinath Pillai, also jumps out. That would definitely be a question on the mind of many.

The book is edited by Tommy Koh, a Professor of Law at NUS and an ambassador-at-large at Singapore’s foreign ministry, and Hernaikh Singh, a senior associate director at ISAS. Hernaikh is the current president of the Singapore Khalsa Association (SKA).



New team at Singapore’s Sikh Advisory Board (Asia Samachar, 24 Nov 2020)


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  1. I’m not sure how this book squares at the moment when hundreds of thousands of farmers are battling the Indian government? It will be interesting to know what the galaxy of writers think about the plight of the farmers. The farmers say they are fighting for the very livelihood.