Dr Vivian Balakrishnan was invited to the Dialogue and following are excerpts from his conversation with Rory Medcalf, the Professor and Head of the National Security College, Australian National University on 14th April 2021

Reviving Travel
“To revive travel, there are efforts currently underway to develop mutual recognition of health certificates, and to ensure that there is interoperability and verification across borders and across systems. Singapore has also developed a globally interoperable Healthcert digital standard. This is based on blockchain technology for COVID-19 test results and vaccine certificates.

At a broader level beyond the technology, this actually underscores the need to establish common rules and common standards in order to facilitate cross-border digital transactions, and this will also extend to areas such as e-payments and data flows. This is why Singapore has taken the effort to conclude Digital Economy Agreements with Australia, Chile, and New Zealand. We are actively exploring more of such agreements with other partners. I am also glad that the WTO is also working to create new rules to govern the global digital economy.”

US-China Tensions and India’s Role
“In Southeast Asia, it will be all the more crucial to maintain ASEAN unity and Centrality amidst this greater geopolitical competition, even as we deal with our own internal challenges, sharpened by COVID-19. If ASEAN Member States can hold together, maintain ASEAN Centrality, maintain our relevance, then the long-term prospects for our region are very good. We have 650 million people, a growing middle class, and a fast-growing digital economy. ASEAN Member States will press on with economic integration, the ASEAN Community Blueprints, and we will continue to expand cooperation within ASEAN and with our external partners as well. All this, we hope, will reinforce the concentric circles of an open and inclusive regional architecture, which includes mechanisms like the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum.

India Strong Supporter
In this context, India has a crucial role to play amidst all these trends, and in helping to shape the post-COVID-19 world. I am aware that there is a surge in cases, which continues to pose an immense challenge worldwide, including in India, but we hope that this will not slow down the momentum of global cooperation. India has in fact been one of the strongest supporters of global vaccine cooperation. India’s strong pharmaceutical sector has quickly risen to the challenge of vaccine manufacturing. It has supplied more than 64.5 million doses to over 80 countries, including 18 million doses provided through the COVAX facility.”

“In the digital economy and beyond, Indian companies have tremendous growth potential, and have an important role to play in stimulating global recovery. With its wealth of engineering talent, and a robust digital infrastructure, India’s digital and innovation space has thrived and is really ready for lift-off. I am happy to note that India is doing more to encourage foreign investments; this will create more jobs and will boost India’s target of a US$5 trillion economy by 2025. So, I do hope, and here I am making a plea, I hope that India will reassess regional trade pacts like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and even the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership. These trade pacts will give Indian companies a platform to showcase their strengths and access even larger markets. Indian conglomerates like Tata, Reliance, Bharti, Adani, TVS, Zomato, DLF, and Forbes Marshall are already globally competitive.”

“ASEAN-India relations have also been enhanced in recent years, under Prime Minister Modi’s Act East Policy, and by his administration’s support for ASEAN Centrality. India has also supported ASEAN’s recovery efforts, including by contributing US$1 million to the ASEAN Response Fund, so there are certainly good prospects for greater cooperation. In August this year, Singapore will commence…”

Visit here for the original full report: https://www.mfa.gov.sg/Newsroom/Press-Statements-Transcripts-and-Photos/2021/04/20210414-Raisina-Dialogue

About Raisina Dialogue
It is India’s premier conference on geopolitics and geoeconomics and hosted by the Observer Research Foundaiton (ORF) in partnership with India’s Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi. This year’s edition was in a hybrid format with physical and digital discussions. For more info as well as reports and publications to download  visit: orfonline.org