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Opening Address by Ms Indranee Rajah, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Law & Ministry of Finance, at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre India Conference 2017

Posted in Speeches

Mr Gary Born, President of the SIAC Court of Arbitration,


Members of the SIAC Board and Court,


Ms Lim Seok Hui, CEO of SIAC,


Distinguished guests,


Ladies and Gentlemen,


1.         I am delighted to be here with you in Delhi at SIAC’s India Conference. We have in this room today representatives from among the best in India’s and the international arbitration community, and I am very honoured to have this opportunity to address you.


2.         The Conference theme this year is a very apt and one: “Crystal Ball Gazing into the Future of International Arbitration in India”.


3.         I will share with you what I see in the crystal ball in a while. But before that, it would be helpful for us to consider a few facts and trends.


The Growth of India


4.         The centre of gravity of global economic growth is already in Asia.


a.         The International Monetary Fund projects that Asia will account for almost 40 per cent of global GDP this year, compared to 31 per cent a decade ago.


b.         It remains the fastest growing region in the world.


5.         India, along with China, is leading the growth of Asia.


a.         The World Bank expects India to grow by 7.2 per cent this fiscal year. This is remarkable.


b.         This is undoubtedly driven by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s commitment to transform India. There have been impressive changes such as the implementation of the world’s first digital and biometric identification infrastructure, Aadhaar. More than a billion have been enrolled under this scheme.


6.         What does India’s growth mean for its people and companies? It means the following:


a.         People’s lives will be uplifted.


                       i.             A study by the Brookings Institute shows that India will contribute 380 million people to the global middle class by 2022 – the world’s largest contributor.


b.         There will be urbanisation, with cities increasingly powered by smart technology.


                       i.             The United Nations estimated that in 2016, there were 2016 megacities in the world, with six in India alone. New Delhi is one of them.


                     ii.             This will drive demand for urban solutions and infrastructure. McKinsey estimates that the demand in this sector will grow by US$20 trillion between 2016 and 2020, with China and South Asia accounting for a large part of it. 


c.         Companies will grow, diversify, and venture abroad as they expand.


                       i.             With India’s growth, Singapore now has a strong contingent of over 7,000 Indian companies. Many use Singapore as a springboard to access opportunities in the rest of Asia and beyond.


                     ii.             Indian companies in Singapore come from all sectors. They include Tata Steel (India’s largest steel manufacturer);


                    iii.             Wipro (India’s second largest IT services company); and


                    iv.             Apollo Tyres (India’s second largest tyre company); and many other companies from a very wide range of sectors, and of all sizes. 


7.         In short, there will be a multitude of new opportunities – not just for India, but also its partners.


8.         The strong and warm bilateral relationship between India and Singapore exemplifies this.


a.         Our bilateral relations have grown over the years. PM Modi and PM Lee Hsien Loong signed the India-Singapore Strategic Partnership in 2015.


b.         We share strong economic ties, anchored by the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA).


c.         One project we are working on together is the development of Andhra Pradesh’s capital city, Amaravati. This is an example of our mutually beneficial cooperation. 


d.         Strong economic cooperation has facilitated strong people-to-people links. India is now Singapore’s fourth largest source of tourist arrivals.


e.         And greater interaction between our peoples will naturally facilitate more commerce.


Arbitration in India


9.         All this means that there will be more business and more cross-border business for Indian companies and their partners, and that means more cross-border disputes. That is the nature of commerce.


a.         The ability to handle disputes properly is an essential consideration in the viability of a business endeavour. Or putting it another way, dispute resolution is an important factor in the bankability of a project. Investors will take into account the mode and mechanisms of dispute resolution before they invest.


10.      Indians are no strangers to disputes and dispute resolution.


a.         Before the word ‘dispute’ entered our lexicon, it was already present in the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata. Its narrative is replete with scenes of disputes and attempts to resolve them.


                       i.             One such effort involved Lord Krishna’s attempt to settle the feud between the Pandavas and Kauvaras, the failure of which led to an epic battle between the two sides.


                     ii.             Apart from its many other cultural and historical attributes, the Mahabharata is a salutary example of what can happen if you don’t have a quick, efficient, decisive means of dispute resolution.


                    iii.             The result is a protracted war of attrition with high costs on all sides.


                    iv.             It also highlights something else which all disputes lawyers know – which is that most family disputes are often the most difficult ones to resolve!


b.         In short, good dispute resolution is essential.


11.      The recent reforms to the Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act exemplify this. The amendments bring the Act in line with international standards. 


a.         They reflect a recognition of how fast and effective dispute resolution can support India’s growth and the internationalisation of its companies.


b.         I hear that the changes were warmly welcomed by legal and business communities.


12.      At the same time, there has been a growth of arbitral institutions in India.


a.         This will boost the popularity of arbitration as a means of resolving disputes, and, in particular, the use of institutional arbitration as a neutral and effective method to settle disputes.


13.      I am glad that SIAC has been part of this growth, and been able to offer a reliable and cost-effective option for Indian parties to resolve their cross-border disputes.


a.         Indian parties have consistently been among SIAC’s top three users over the past seven years.


b.         In 2015 and 2016, Indian parties were SIAC’s users, with the number growing by almost 70 per cent.


c.         Over 22 per cent of SIAC’s high value cases are from Indian parties, with sums in dispute over S$25 million.


d.         To better serve Indian users, SIAC opened a Mumbai office in 2013, followed by another office in Gujarat International Finance-Tec (GIFT) City in 2016.


The Future of Arbitration: India, Singapore and SIAC


14.      So what is the future of arbitration? Based on the above facts and trends, the vision the crystal ball holds is pretty clear:


a.         The future of arbitration in India is bright.


b.         It will be an important part of India’s rise and internationalisation.


c.         And Singapore and SIAC can facilitate this.


15.      As Indian parties enter into more cross-border transactions, there will be increased need for commercial dispute resolution options. Many will be handled in India by the Indian system and institutions. In other cases, parties may wish to resolve their disputes at a third party venue or institution.


a.         Singapore and SIAC can cater to this need. 


b.         Singapore is known for its neutrality, and as a trusted venue and system. We have a strong reputation for the rule of law.


c.         Our legal system is familiar to Indian parties, as we share a common law heritage.


d.         Today, Singapore is among the top five most preferred seats of arbitration globally. 


e.         Arbitral awards issued in Singapore have the advantage of being enforceable in other signatory states of the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. India is also a party to the Convention.


16.      We have built up a strong dispute resolution ecosystem that offers a full suite of options for Indian users to pick and choose from according to their needs.


a.         You are already familiar with SIAC, which is among the top five most preferred arbitral institutions in the world.


                       i.             It is a truly international institution, with over 80 per cent of its cases having no connection with Singapore.


                     ii.             It has a large and diverse panel of world-class and reputable arbitrators, including 21 Indian lawyers.


                    iii.             Among these are the eminent Rajiv Luthra, Darius Khambata S.C., and Harish Salve S.C. – all luminaries in the Indian and indeed international lawyering community.


                    iv.             SIAC’s costs are competitive for all types of tribunals and sums in dispute. In the Global Arbitration Review’s recent publication on “arbitration costs compared”, SIAC fared well when compared against other international institutions.


b.         We have other high-quality institutions, should you require other modes of dispute resolution.


                       i.             The Singapore International Mediation Centre offers world-class mediation services.


                     ii.             The Singapore International Commercial Court, the first of its kind, hears commercial disputes in litigation, including those which have no connection with Singapore.


c.         And when you resolve disputes in Singapore, you have access to a wide range of legal service providers.


                       i.             We have an open regime for the practice of international arbitration. Parties who arbitrate in Singapore can engage lawyers of any nationality.


                     ii.             Over half of the top 100 law firms by revenue have a presence in Singapore. Many barristers have also set up offices in Singapore. So there is plenty of choice of counsel.


d.         As an international financial and business hub, you will be able to find the necessary expertise and experts to provide support for your cases – e.g. valuation, financial modelling for assessment of damages in complex cases, geotechnical and engineering experts, to name just a few.


e.         There is world-class infrastructure at Maxwell Chambers, the world’s first integrated dispute resolution complex and one of the most preferred hearing centres in the world. Maxwell Chambers will be expanded. We are tripling its size. My Ministry has recently taken over the building next door to Maxwell Chambers, for refurbishment. The new facilities will be ready by 2019.


f.          We aim to make this the most user-friendly and conducive arbitration facility in the world. 


g.         If you have ideas on how Maxwell Chambers can be improved to meet your needs even better, please feel free to speak to me, my staff or SIAC over the course of this conference.



India and Singapore


17.      And more generally, I say that the image in the crystal is particularly clear, because Singapore and India share many affinities.


a.         India’s links to Singapore and the region go back to the times of the Cholas.


b.         When modern Singapore was founded in 1819 by Sir Stamford Raffles, a thriving Indian community commenced almost immediately thereafter.


c.         Since then, we have had successive waves of Indian migration over the two centuries, with the last wave being in the mid-2000s.


d.         The Indian community is an important part of Singapore’s multi-cultural and multi-racial fabric. It has enriched Singapore with its diverse heritage and traditions. It has transformed and been transformed by Singapore.


e.         I hope you have the chance to visit – if not for work – then for leisure.


f.          You will feel right at home.


g.         I would like to show you a few images from the Indian Heritage Centre, which was officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in 2015, the year of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Singapore and India. The Centre celebrates the contributions, culture and traditions of Indians in Singapore and Southeast Asia, and attempts to tell their stories and trace their roots.


                       i.             Gold Necklace of Kasumalai. First, a gold necklace. 


                     ii.             It belongs to the family of the late Mr Gnanapragasam Pillai (1872-1915). Mr Pillai was an early trader who established a grocery business in Singapore in the early 1900s, after moving there from Pondicherry in Southern India. He had ordered the necklace to be made in Madras (now Chennai) for his wife. 


                    iii.             The necklace is not just an example of superior craftsmanship, but also bears testimony to the heritage and roots of a pioneering Singapore-Indian family.


                    iv.             Late 19th Century Chettinad Doorway. The IHC also has a late 19th century wooden doorway from Chettinad in Tamil Nadu, with thousands of elaborate carvings.


                     v.             The Chettinad region is the origin of the chettiar business community, who were among the early migrants to Southeast Asia, including Singapore. 


                    vi.             This doorway speaks of the intimate relations between our two countries, and our intertwined histories.


                   vii.             I think it is also a fitting symbol of how Singapore can be your partner – the gateway – for your dispute resolution needs.


                 viii.             And there are many other artefacts in the Indian Heritage Centre:


·                A painted and carved wooden ceiling from Chettinad;

·                A wooden gable from a house in Kerala;

·                A tiled Islamic façade from Multan, in Pakistan, which is also a part of our heritage;

·                And the entrance to the Indian Heritage Centre itself, which was specially commissioned to be made in India, for Singapore.


h.        And let us not forget the other cultural affinities, including food. 


i.          The food in Delhi is unbeatable, but we have our own creations too. Iconic dishes such as chilli crab will give offer you a taste of something familiar and yet new – savoury, sweet, and spicy all at once. You will be able to enjoy fine Indian cuisine, as well as uniquely Singaporean dishes such as this.


j.           You will also find some of our dishes are familiar yet different. Fish head curry is one example of a uniquely Singaporean dish with both Indian and Chinese roots.


k.         As with dining out, in Singapore you will find a full menu of options to meet your dispute resolution needs – including SIAC.




18.      To conclude, let me reiterate my vision – the future of arbitration in India is bright, and there is potential for Singapore and SIAC to work closely with India to realise this vision.


19.      I wish you all a very productive conference.

Last updated on 13 Oct 2017