Saturday, November 28, 2015

India-Singapore Joint Issue: Two minds?

The India-Singapore Joint stamp issue was released on 24 November 2015 by the Prime Ministers of both countries after their bilateral talks. This year marks 50 years of diplomatic relationship between Singapore and India and the stamps were released to commemorate the occasion. A fitting tribute to a well established friendship. It is appreciable that the stamps have now been put on sale in both countries, but here are a few things to note:

The theme of the stamps was residence of the Presidents of both countries, i.e. Rashtrapati Bhavan (India) and Istana (Singapore), a bit mundane. There are quite a few similarities between the two cultures, especially given the Tamil-speaking population in Singapore. One could easily think of common food, festivals or even well known personalities as some other alternatives for the commemoration. Given that the Indian Rashtrapati Bhavan was only recently seen on a set of four postage stamps in 2011, a different theme would have added variety to the stamp program. Anyway, these new stamps appeared decently designed, using photographs of both the buildings.

India-Singapore Joint Stamp Issue: Change of mind? The Indian stamp was originally planned for Rs 5, later being changed to Rs 25 denomination.
The denomination of these stamps appear to be inconsistent between the two countries, but there is no official information available so this is just to state the facts. Singapore designated their local monument, Istana with the 1st local denomination and the Indian building with the higher, S$2 value. India, on the other hand did the exact opposite, giving higher denomination to its own local building. One could argue that the lower Rs 5 denominated Istana stamp in India could gain wider popularity and spread awareness about the presidential palace, and Singapore in general. India Post, it appears originally thought of keeping the Rashtrapati Bhavan stamp with lower denomination, but later changed it to the higher, Rs 25 value.

Another difference in the 'joint' issue is that although Singapore Post released a mixed commemorative sheet, making a Siamese Twin Issue, India Post does not seem to have done the same. A mixed FDC or a mixed souvenir sheet adds to the joint nature of these commemorations.

One the design front: Elements used for the Singapore commemorative sheet, first day cover and the presentation pack have no correlation with the theme of the stamps. Some previous issues like the Singapore-Thailand, Singapore-Vietnam or Singapore-Australia-New Zealand joint stamps had meaningful selvages. The stamp designers, Alka Sharma (India) and Wong Wui Kong (Singapore) were recognized by their respective postal administrations, but this being a joint issue, both artists deserve credit from both countries.

Another underlying fact with this stamp issue was the release date itself. A joint stamp release was planned since August 2014, and was most likely to occur earlier in 2015 during Presidential bilateral visits, but may not have been in ready in time for the Singapore President's visit to India in February 2015 and the Indian President's visit to Singapore is yet to occur (now planned in early 2016)! Singapore Postal Museum had even published a tentative release date for July 2015, but then moved it to the last quarter. The stamps were finally released when the Prime Ministers, not the Presidents (inhabitants of the Rashtrapati Bhavan & Istana) of India and Singapore met in November 2015. One could say, a near miss!

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