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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Evaluate – Singapore Is Not An Island

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Singapore Is Not An Island: Views on Singapore Foreign Policy
By Bilahari Kausikan
Straits Occasions Press, 2017

The research of Singapore’s international coverage has been one which has been conspicuously restricted, regardless of the city-state’s a lot studied insurance policies in different areas. Other than Michael Leifer’s Singapore’s Foreign Policy: Coping with Vulnerabilityand Narayanan Ganesan’s Realism and Interdependence in Singapore’s Foreign Policy, printed in 2000 and 2005, the research of how this small state navigates the vagaries and vicissitudes of worldwide politics stays understudied. That is altering.

A variety of retired Singaporean profession diplomats have now contributed their views on Singapore’s international coverage over time, and amongst them, is Bilahari Kausikan. Kausikan is a veteran Singaporean diplomat who retired in 2013, after serving within the Ministry of Overseas Affairs (MFA) for 32 years, together with fulfilling the position of Second Everlasting Secretary and Everlasting Secretary between 2001 and 2013. As a widely known public mental, Kausikan often offers commentary on each home and international political points on his Fb web page and can also be recognized to be a prolific author publish retirement, his op-eds often showing in each mainstream and social media.

In Singapore Is Not An Island, Kausikan offers an unvarnished evaluation and dialogue of Singapore’s international coverage and the way the city-state continues to keep up its relevance in a world which, in his words, “will most likely get alongside fantastic with no totally sovereign and impartial Singapore.” To those that have made the research of Singapore’s international coverage each a matter {of professional} and private curiosity, a lot of what’s written within the guide wouldn’t be unfamiliar. Certainly, a lot of Kausikan’s worldview imbibes the considering of Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, who was beneath no illusions in regards to the magnitude of the city-state’s political challenges and the extent of its vulnerability each within the early years of its independence up until immediately. Given the model and accessibility of Kausikan’s penning this guide is prone to be a essential staple for college kids and students of Singapore’s international coverage who’re concerned about understanding how the island-state seeks to interact the broader world in worldwide affairs.

Within the guide Kausikan offers us with a broad tour of the foremost themes and points pertaining to Singapore’s international coverage. Kausikan units the stage by reminding readers – and one would suspect that is written primarily for a youthful Singaporean viewers – that Singapore’s nationwide pursuits (e.g. financial growth, a secure worldwide atmosphere, and preserving the Singaporean lifestyle) shouldn’t be taken with no consideration and that the basics of its international coverage (equivalent to its innate vulnerability, the necessity to view the broader world as its hinterland, and eager to be pals with everybody) put in place within the early years of Singapore’s independence shouldn’t be simply forgotten.

Following that, Kausikan touches on the subject of ‘The Sovereignty of Small States’, a theme which generations of international service officers within the MFA are deeply acquainted with in the middle of their work. As Kausikan likes to remind us, “for small states, relevance isn’t one thing to be taken with no consideration. The creation and upkeep of relevance should be the overarching strategic goal of small states” (pp.40-41). Such considering is extremely pervasive within the minds of Singapore’s diplomats, and will be evidenced within the nation’s extremely open and pro-business financial insurance policies. The concept that Singapore must consistently reinvent itself to make sure its relevance to the skin world is a basic problem that generations of leaders and coverage makers should undertake.

Kausikan goes on to debate Singapore’s worth and place vis-à-vis Southeast Asia, a serious theme that takes up nearly a 3rd of the guide, and one which is evidently near Kausikan’s coronary heart. A number of the main matters of Singapore’s international coverage are being expounded upon right here, together with Singapore-Malaysia relations, Singapore’s considering on ASEAN (and extra broadly, Asia) in addition to the way forward for the area’s safety structure. All these are massive and heavy matters and are deserving of scholarly theses. Credit score has to go to Kausikan for dissecting these points in a way that each students and the typical reader are capable of profit from. By offering examples and real-life illustrations, Kausikan proffers us a reminder that what diplomats take care of of their jobs has tangible penalties and that we should care about international coverage – even when the on a regular basis workings of it happen out of the general public gaze.

The guide then takes us into more difficult terrain, that of main energy competitors. On condition that this guide was printed in 2017, a lot of the prevailing tensions within the U.S.-China rivalry weren’t as pronounced then as they’re immediately. But as Kausikan forewarns, “the US-China relationship is advanced, tough to encapsulate in a phrase or sentence [and] is characterised by each profound interdependence and deep strategic distrust” (pp.195-196). On the identical time, nations proceed to own company (nonetheless restricted that could be), and any predetermined way forward for the area shouldn’t be naively accepted. As Kausikan suggests, it’s “exactly the existence of competitors that holds out the potential for manoeuvre to protect autonomy” (p.197). As a bonus, Kausikan additionally offers some broad insights into different main world matters equivalent to nuclear weapons points, the geopolitics of the Indian Ocean, in addition to the relevance of Center East developments and Brexit to Southeast Asia.

The ultimate two sections of the guide cowl extra restricted, however no much less essential themes. First the problem of human rights, which Singapore – over time – has been subjected to Western criticisms over, and two, the worldview of Lee Kuan Yew, which continues to play a serious position in the way in which wherein Singaporean diplomats see the world and Singapore’s place in it. In a method, each themes are intertwined insofar as they mirror Lee’s understanding of Singapore’s place on this planet. Regardless of a lot of Singapore’s studying – particularly in home institutional constructing – from the West, the city-state stays geographically and culturally distinct from the West, its personal distinctive traits that are mirrored in its observe and strategy to international coverage. To that finish, Mr. Lee as soon as quipped that “cheap males adapt, unreasonable males change the world” (p.273).

It’s this adaptive capability of Singapore which has allowed the island-state, as some say, to punch above its weight in worldwide affairs. The often cited adage that one has to take the world as it’s, not as the way it needs it to be, continues to tell the mainstream exposition of Singapore’s international coverage and which Kausikan’s views evidently explicate. That mentioned, Singapore’s international coverage is on no account a static one and given the altering worldwide state of affairs, its leaders and coverage makers are additionally conscious of the necessity to adapt to a brand new worldwide actuality. Kausikan’s views appear to emphasise the necessity for higher continuity with the previous – which has served Singapore properly little doubt – however he’s much less clear on the long run challenges that Singapore faces and what the modifications are, if any, which may be required to safeguard Singapore’s curiosity in a quickly altering world. Little question the character of Sino-American competitors can be a problem that Singapore should take care of. In contrast to his well-known colleague Kishore Mahbubani (who was the Dean of the Lee Kuan Yew Faculty of Public Coverage), whose writings are way more sympathetic to China, Kausikan’s place stays one which takes its reference from an previous blueprint – one which has certainly been efficient, however which can be much less related transferring ahead. Given Kausikan’s formidable mind and diplomatic nous, it’s a subject that he’s well-placed to deal with, and which his guide could possibly be clearer on. That mentioned, by offering a primary version (and the creator suspects a future replace of Kausikan’s ideas can be obtainable) of a a lot wanted exposition of Singapore’s diplomatic worldview, this guide will turn into a often referenced version if one is within the signposts and contours of Singapore’s international coverage.

Additional Studying on E-Worldwide Relations

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