Regional academics have described how the strategic vision of late Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew nurtured the relationship between Singapore and Vietnam, who are now special partners within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Associate Professor Alan Chong from the S.Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) is an expert in Singapore’s external affairs policies. He has explained to Vietnam News Agency correspondents how the country first looked for a special relationship with Vietnam after the Cold War had ended.

Lee Kuan Yew, who was already seeing Singapore developing rapidly, was invited to advise the Vietnamese government in designing a development master plan for the country, Chong said. This plan triggered the quick development in relations between the two nations; a process which is continuing today, as there is still room for cooperation growth in the fields of tourism, education, agriculture and biotechnology.

Associate Professor Chong expressed his belief in the bright prospects for the two countries, confirming that Singapore always considers Vietnam as a reliable partner in ASEAN.

Associate Professor Vu Minh Khuong from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy said that the late Prime Minister was impressed by Vietnam ’s efforts to safeguard its sovereignty. He also saw potential in Vietnam’s human resources and believed that such a promising nation would sooner or later become powerful.

He pointed to formation of the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) in the southern province of Binh Duong in 1995 as one of the most successful cooperation outcomes between the two countries.

The project, which is equipped with modern and environmentally friendly infrastructure, received a lot of attention from the late PM, who visited the province many times and acknowledged its significant development.

In 2013, Vietnam and Singapore agreed to elevate their relations to strategic partnership on the occasion of PM Lee Hsien Loong’s visit to Vietnam. Since then, bilateral relations have developed vigorously across many sectors, according to Vietnamese Ambassador to Singapore Nguyen Tien Minh.

On the political front, the two countries have enhanced dialogue and shared their mutual interest in maintaining peace, security, stability and development in the region and the East Sea.

Regarding economics, two-way trade saw an annual rise of 20 percent in 2014. Singapore is the 6th largest trade partner and third largest investor in Vietnam, with the total investment capital worth 32.7 billion USD.

The two sides have also seen progress in social-cultural affairs and people-to-people exchanges, with tens of thousands of Vietnamese students pursuing higher education in the island country.

Lee Kuan Yew passed away early on March 23 at the age of 91. He was the founding leader of Singapore, who has been widely credited with transforming the city-state into one of the most affluent economies in Asia within three decades.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, on behalf of the Vietnamese Party, State and Government, attended his funeral on March 29.-VNA