It was reported by the Indian media last Wed (21 Oct) that Singapore High Commissioner to India, Simon Wong Wie Kuen, flew from Delhi to Chennai for a series of meetings with Tamil Nadu officials including the state’s chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami despite the health risks posed by the current COVID-19 pandemic in India (‘High Commissioner says SG to reach out to Indian officials to establish travel bubble with India‘).
Speaking to the media, Wong said, “I think the Chief Minister is looking at a forward-looking plan to transform the economy of [the regions] surrounding Chennai and, of course, Tamil Nadu. Singapore wants to be part of this process.”
He revealed that between 2018 and now, Singapore has, in fact, invested about $1 billion in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
He also told Indian media that the relevant agencies in Singapore will be reaching out to the Indian authorities for discussions regarding the travel bubble proposal from the Indian government to establish travel between both countries.
“India is an important partner for Singapore and the strong air connectivity between our countries prior to the pandemic had been critical to driving the flow of trade and investment, and people-to-people exchanges,” Wong added.
Travel bubbles are essentially an exclusive partnership between countries to re-establish travel connections between them by opening up borders and allowing people to travel freely within the zone without having the need to undergo on-arrival quarantine. Also, those entering the travel bubble need to present official documents stating are COVID-19 free.
In fact, to show how Singapore is taking the Tamil Nadu government very seriously, Wong was willing to sacrifice his health by flying to the state capital Chennai to meet with the state’s chief minister despite the COVID-19 risks.
“That is also the main reason why, despite COVID, we are making a trip from Delhi to Chennai. This is my first stop. And I feel that we need to, despite the health risks, we want to signal to the Tamil Nadu government that we take our partners very, very seriously. And we will also want to signal to our Singaporean investments that this is the preferred State to put their money in,” he said.
Wong appointed in June 2020
Wong is the new High Commissioner to India. He was only appointed by the Singapore government 4 months ago in June this year.
He was Singapore’s Trade Representative to Taiwan from July 2015 to January 2020 and prior to this, he was Deputy Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from August 2012 to June 2015.
Wong joined the Singapore Foreign Service in 1990. He served in various capacities in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, covering the Americas, Europe and Northeast Asia. He also served as Ambassador at the Singapore Embassy in Hanoi from 2009 to 2012, Minister-Counsellor at the Singapore Embassy in Beijing from 2000 to 2005, and First Secretary at the Singapore Embassy in Seoul from 1992 to 1995.
Wong was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Bronze) in 2002, and the Long Service Award (25 years) in 2014 by the Singapore Government. He was also awarded the Vietnam Order of Friendship in 2012 by His Excellency President Truong Tan Sang, and the Order of St Michael and St George in 2014 by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
It’s worthy to note that Wong, the recipient of many prestigious awards, was willing to sacrifice his health to take on the COVID-19 risks for the sake of drawing more investments into India.