In his speech in Parliament yesterday, Foreign Minister George Yeo said that “from time to time, we must expect countries to pressure us in the hope that we will then give way to their demands. Singaporeans know that if we give in to such pressures, we would only invite more such pressures. However, we are always prepared to build good relations with them on the basis of mutual respect and mutual benefit. We should still help them when they are in difficulty not because we expect gratitude or reward, but because that is the right thing to do.” (emphasis mine).
Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean echoed similar sentiments when he stressed that the SAF would continue rendering humanitarian aid and disaster relief to our neighbours, even though this help appeared to be taken for granted by some quarters. He said, “I still believe it’s the right thing to do. I suppose in some quarters, memories can be short. But heaven forbid, if we were to be called upon again…we will respond. We are all brothers in Asean.” (emphasis mine)
It is certainly heartening to note that the two ministers at the forefront of our foreign policy have emphasised the intrinsic value in rendering assistance to our neighbours, rather than solely focusing on a “balance of benefits” or quid pro quo. Although this by no means indicates that our leaders are becoming less “hard nosed” about foreign policy, I sense that there is a slight shift in the direction of using “soft power” to project our national interests. This will be a subject of a future post on this blog. Stay tuned!