India, ASEAN leaders agree to boost maritime cooperation

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, right, with President of the Philippines Rodrigo Roa Duterte ahead of a meeting on the sidelines of ASEAN-INDIA Commemorative Summit in New Delhi on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 25 January 2018
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India, ASEAN leaders agree to boost maritime cooperation

NEW DELHI: The leaders of India and southeast Asia agreed on Thursday to boost their maritime ties at a summit in New Delhi, as they seek to balance the increasing weight of China across the region.
India is hosting the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Regional Cooperation (ASEAN) and the summit comes at a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is pursuing an “Act East” policy of developing ties with these countries.
The Indian and ASEAN leaders agreed “to establish a mechanism for greater cooperation in the maritime domain sector,” Preeti Saran, secretary in the Indian Foreign Mnistry, told reporters.
“They did discuss the issues of greater maritime cooperation, addressing both traditional and non-traditional challenges all of us face collectively,” Saran said, without elaborating.
In the talks Modi also pitched for an ASEAN-India women’s navy team which could sail around the world, just as an Indian team is doing currently, Saran said.
Modi has invited the leaders of all 10 ASEAN nations to join him for India’s Republic Day celebrations on Friday in the biggest ever gathering of foreign leaders at the parade, which showcases the country’s military might and cultural diversity.
The leaders attending the summit in New Delhi include Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines.
New Delhi’s push to expand economic ties with southeast Asia still trail those of China, whose trade with ASEAN was more than six times greater than India’s in 2016-17 at $470 million.
China has in recent years also built ports and power plants in countries around India’s periphery, expanding its presence in South Asia and pushing New Delhi to seek new allies.
Modi said he would work toward strengthening relations with ASEAN countries, saying trade had already grown “25 times in 25 years.”
“Investments are robust and growing. We will further enhance trade ties and work toward greater interaction among our business communities,” Modi said.


Singapore celebrates Ramadan with bazaars and biryani

Updated 24 min 11 sec ago
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Singapore celebrates Ramadan with bazaars and biryani

  • The vibrant Kampong Glam neighborhood comes alive during the holy month
  • Sultan Mosque was designated a national monument in 1975

KUALA LUMPUR: Singapore’s Sultan Mosque is a focal point for Muslims in the cosmopolitan city-state and the vibrant Kampong Glam neighborhood comes alive during the holy month of Ramadan when people from all walks of life flock to its bustling bazaars.

Kampong Glam is Singapore’s “Muslim Quarter” with a mix of Malay, South Asian and Middle Eastern elements. Around 14 percent of Singapore’s 5.6 million population is Muslim, according to the latest official data.

Arab Street — an area that includes Bussorah Street, Haji and Bali Lanes and Muscat Street — is a hub for hipsters, vivid murals, Persian rug stores, shisha bars, perfumeries and textile shops, as well as being home to the distinctive golden domes of the Sultan Mosque. There is even an ornate archway welcoming people to explore the neighborhood and its distinctive shophouses, buildings that were used for working and living in. 

Situated in the heart of Kampung Glam, the Sultan Mosque is a historic landmark in Singapore. (AN photo)

“We are more like brothers and sisters, rather than businesses. I know most of the customers and they know me too,” a 36-year-old biryani hawker who gave his name as Nareza told Arab News as he served a line of hungry clients.

Nareza said his stall’s signature dish was mutton biryani, made from a family recipe handed down through generations from his late grandmother. 

FASTFACT

Around 14 percent of Singapore’s 5.6 million population is Muslim

“Dum biryani is a process of mixing meat and rice together in one pot, so the rice has a bit of the masala taste while the meat has a bit of the basmati rice fragrance,” he said, adding that he sold more than 300 portions of biryani a day. “I learned to make biryani from my father, who used to do charity work in the mosque. We make our own spices, we do not buy them from outside vendors. That is why the taste is different.”

The bazaar is packed with places selling food, drinks, decorations and homeware. The fare reflects Singapore’s international status, with eateries and stores selling kebabs, sushi and local Malay goodies.

A view outside of Sultan Mosque where tables are set for itfar under the large tent. (AN photo)

But Singapore has a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in the world and having a fast-paced lifestyle, leading some to focus on preserving culture and heritage for future generations.

“We want to create awareness about the significance of Sultan Mosque to the Muslim community,” juice stall owner Riduan told Arab News, saying all sale proceeds were donated to the Sultan Mosque. “Arab Street is unique because you see a lot of different races coming here and it is also a tourist attraction. This is where we demonstrate we are Singapore society. Singapore is not just limited to skyscrapers such as Marina Bay Sands.”