Voices

Shifting geopolitical landscape calls for a change in mindset

From

Lee Teck Chuan

-
Published: 4:00 AM, July 11, 2017

I refer to the report “Kishore reiterates: S’pore’s statements must be more prudent” (July 4).

All countries, big or small, serve their own interests.

While our principle is to not kowtow to others, we should not expect others to kowtow to us just because we are principled.

We should also recognise the changing geopolitical landscape and rules. What worked before may not work so well in this new reality. Conducting foreign affairs by looking in the rear-view mirror may be a recipe for disaster.

We were blessed to have a leader like Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who enabled us to punch above our weight. We should not squander this goodwill on issues that do not involve us directly.

There may be instances when it is appropriate to lie low lest we be caught in a crossfire between feuding giants.

Among members of the Association of South-east Asian Nations, even the claimant states of the South China Sea islands have mellowed their stance.

While Singapore proclaims not to take sides in the dispute, we must be perceived to be true to our words by all around us. The best of intentions may also be hindered by the timing of events.

Being consistent may be good, even necessary in the rough and tumble of life.

But not all cultures take well to affront or losing face, no matter how principled the other side may be.

It may be appropriate to let a moment pass for the long-term good. Mutual respect between countries, as with commentators, is the best diplomacy for peace.