PM Lee Hsien Loong at the 8th S Rajaratnam Lecture on 27 November 2015

27 November 2015

 

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Very good afternoon to all of you. We have been celebrating SG50 this year. It's a year to look back on what we have achieved and to reflect on what has enabled us to succeed. At the same time, it is a year to look forward to chart our future.

One important area where some introspection would be useful is in our external relations. It is not the top issue on the minds of many Singaporeans because we enjoy peace and stability, we have friendly ties with most countries. MFA has done such a good job; people hardly notice it exists. People are much more concerned with the salient things that affect their daily lives – train breakdowns from time to time, healthcare, school exams, jobs. But in fact foreign policy is vital to our place in the world, to ensure that our region remains stable, to create the external conditions for our economy to prosper and for our people to live better lives.

Compared to where we started off 50 years ago, Singapore’s position in the world has improved immeasurably. Today Singapore is successful and respected. We enjoy good standing in the international community, we have friends around the world. For this, generations of MFA officers and Ministers deserve credit, starting with our first Foreign Minister, Mr S Rajaratnam in whose honour this lecture series is named.

Today's world is very different from what it was 50 years ago. In 1965 the Cold War was at its height; now it is long over. Southeast Asia then was a conflict zone. The Vietnam War was hotting up; we ourselves were experiencing Konfrontasi – a low-intensity conflict between Malaysia and Indonesia. Now Southeast Asia is at peace, and ASEAN will become the ASEAN Community by the end of the year. As a country, we are now much more prosperous and resilient, and as a nation, our sense of identity, of nationhood is much stronger.

But some fundamentals about our existence have not changed. Singapore will always be a small country in an uncertain and sometimes dangerous world. We are still surrounded by bigger neighbours, and located in the middle of Southeast Asia. The region is more stable and prosperous than before, but it is still a region where the interests of large powers intersect and a region which is far more diverse and less predictable than North America, and until recent years, Europe. We still have no natural resources, only our wits and the foreign reserves which we have labouriously built up to see us through difficult times. These truths are very unlikely to change for a very long time.

Realities of Small States 

Small countries like us have constantly to ask ourselves: how can we ensure that we survive, and keep our place in the sun?

Going by the rhetoric of diplomacy, international relations are based on high-minded principles. The UN Charter sets out the "sovereign equality" of all states and declares that countries shall "settle their international disputes by peaceful means". The Non-Aligned Movement is based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which are even more aspirational – I won't test you but here are the five principles – Mutual respect for each other's territorial integrity and sovereignty; Mutual non-aggression; Mutual non-interference in each other's internal affairs; Equality and cooperation for mutual benefit; Peaceful co-existence. These are important statements which define the norms of state-to-state relations and international law.

But in practice, the conduct of international affairs often reflects a harsher reality. It is power that determines which countries prevail, and which countries set the agenda. Realpolitik is never absent, even if it is not quite the law of the jungle. At the UN itself, despites the high principles in its Charter, power is at the core of diplomacy. In the Security Council of 15 members, the P5 have veto powers while the elected 10 do not. Even amongst the P5, there is a pecking order. Not all vetoes are created equal. Everyone knows that some vetoes are weightier than others, even though it is not diplomatic to talk about it. But it is so. And this hierarchy of power manifests itself even in little things. When you have international meetings and family photographs are taken – who is standing where. If you look carefully, it will tell a story. Who gets to choose to speak first or speak last – that depends on who has the Chairman’s ear. Even which countries get to choose which hotels their delegation will stay in and who has to move out, that depends on which country is more persuasive. Perhaps that is why the Chinese say  小国无外交 – small countries have no foreign policy – because they cannot shape events, but have to take the world as they find it.

There is an ancient Western equivalent in Thucydides' "History of the Peloponnesian War". It is the well-known aphorism that "The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must". The context of this aphorism is worth recounting. The Peloponnesian War was between Athens and its allies and Sparta and its allies. Athens was the hegemon of the Delian League, one of two superpowers in the Greek world of city states. Athens wanted to force Melos, a weak island state, to join the Delian League. So it sent an army to invade Melos, and before the fight, it sent delegates and envoys to persuade the Melians to submit and pay tribute, or else be destroyed. Melos is a little island in the Aegean Sea. The Melian Dialogue is Thucydides' reconstruction of what the Athenians would have said, the arguments and the rejoinders. It is an analysis of the power of the motivation and considerations on both sides. The Melians put up pragmatic and moral arguments why Athens should not attack Melos. The Athenian envoys gave this brutal answer: "The strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must". The Melians nevertheless rejected this. So the Athenians proceeded to wipe out Melos, killed all the men, sold the women and children into slavery. That was 2,400 years ago, but it would not be completely unfamiliar in this modern world. Think back to what happened when Iraq invaded Kuwait, compare it to what happened more recently when Russia annexed Crimea. Force counts.

Advancing our Interests

Singapore, small as we are, has refused to accept this as our fate. We are determined to be masters of our own destiny. Our foreign policy is a balance between realism and idealism. We know we have to take the world as it is and not as we would wish it to be. But we believe that we can and must defend ourselves and advance our interests.

Of course we have to be clear what our fundamental interests are and these have not changed in 50 years – to have peace in the world; to have an international order where countries respect and abide by international law; to establish a network of friends and allies whom we can work with; to have a stable and secure Asia-Pacific region, especially Southeast Asia; and ultimately, to preserve our sovereignty, and our right to determine our future.

How can Singapore advance these national interests?

I offer you another old Chinese saying – the Chinese have solved all these problems long ago. This is from the Confucian classic "Great Learning" – 修身、齐家、治国、平天下 - one must first cultivate one's own person, then regulate one's family, then order well one's state, then only can one make the whole kingdom "天下" – all under heaven – tranquil and happy. This is the Confucian view of government, and it is deep in the Chinese psyche. That there is a direct link from the virtue of the individual, to the family, to the larger society and to universal harmony. Singapore is a modern society, but we have tried hard to maintain traditional values that are relevant to us and this piece is a timeless piece of wisdom that neatly encapsulates how we can think about advancing our interests internationally. A successful foreign policy is founded on what we do domestically in Singapore and we must first put our home in order, then our external relations can prosper.

Let me elaborate on this starting from the outside. First, internationally, we have to be an active and constructive player, seeking to add value and making ourselves relevant to other countries. Secondly, in our own region, we have to make common cause with our neighbours. Thirdly, Singapore must continue to succeed as a nation, to wield any influence abroad. Fourthly, Singapore’s success, whether externally or domestically, depends on our staying united as one people, firm in our conviction that Singapore will endure and prevail.

Constructive Player in the International Arena

First, internationally, therefore we have to be an active and constructive player.

Diplomacy covers many issues, and takes place in dozens of fora. Diplomats seem to spend all their time meeting one another, having tea, having meetings – from war and peace, to trade, to protecting the environment, to cultural and social cooperation, on nearly every field of human endeavour, countries talk to one another, do business with one another, and try to influence one another. As a small country, we cannot be present everywhere but we have to be present for the key forums and on the key issues, e.g. UN, WTO, APEC, where our interests are at stake.

Many of these issues go on for a very long time. Negotiations in climate change have been going on for years; multilateral trade agreements – the Doha Round, started in 2001 and it may go on for a long time more. It is a long process, but periodically in the process, there are international conferences on these issues, and then you have a spasm of a mad scrum: intense negotiations, brinksmanship and last minute deal-making; sleepless nights in order to settle at the 11th hour sometimes the 13th hour. So with this kind of a scenario, we have to have the strategic sense to maintain our policy and direction over many years, to secure our interests patiently and subtly but at the same time have the nimbleness to respond tactically during these conferences and the engagements, to influence discussions where we can, and where it is important to us.

What do we do? First, we make common cause with others, in particular with other small states. Individually, our voice may be weak, but collectively, our voices will be amplified and we can make ourselves heard. That is why at the UN, we set up the Forum of Small States (FOSS). We are small but we are quite many. We put together under FOSS, countries under 10 million. It is an informal group, but there are 105 members of FOSS all over the world. We meet together, we discuss, we foster common positions on issues, and we share experiences and strategies. That is one small states group. Another one that we have set up is called the Global Governance Group. An informal coalition, this time 30 small- and medium-sized states formed to exchange views on global governance. What does that mean? That means financial rules, that means IMF world bank, economic policies, so as to feed them into the G20 processes, to render the G20 a more inclusive, transparent and representative grouping. So the first thing to make ourselves heard is to make common cause with others.

The second thing is to look ahead constantly to anticipate developments, to position ourselves, to protect our interests, whichever way events may break. It is particularly important in these uncertain times where you cannot predict which way things will go, and you must prepare for multiple eventualities. For example, we are embarking on the third Government-to-Government (G-to-G) project with China in Chongqing. This will position us at one end of China's "One Belt, One Road" project. Now, Singapore is part of the "belt", which is the Silk Route going through Eurasia, out of China and we are also part of the "road" – the Maritime Silk Road passing through Southeast Asia. It is a valuable position to be in.

Another example, we joined the Arctic Council as an observer to find out what may happen when the northern sea-route becomes viable as the Arctic ice melts. You would not have thought an equatorial country without an interest in Arctic Affairs, but there is a reason we are there. Sam Tan who is our Envoy, who has worked very hard and has made many friends in the Arctic Circle, on the Arctic Council. It is relevant to us. It will not happen tomorrow. It may come to pass or it may not. But it probably will, and if it does, we will be there. These are small bets to hedge our position.

The third thing we can do to be relevant is to bring something to the table. We do not have deep pockets of money to distribute, we do not have power to coerce others. But we master the issues, we bring constructive ideas, and every diplomat in our team adds something to the discussions.

This is what we did a generation ago, when the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was being negotiated. The treaty was signed in 1982. Professor Tommy Koh, now our Ambassador-at-Large and veteran diplomat, played a central role in the negotiations as President of the Third Conference on the Law of the Sea. He must have been the youngest member of the conference practically, in his early 30s. Professor Jayakumar and Justice Chao Hick Tin, I think Prof was then our UN Permanent Representative, played leading roles, forming a coalition of "land-locked and geographically disadvantaged states", to push for our common interests. You will ask, "What is a 'land-locked and geographically-disadvantaged state' "? It is another coalition of like-minded countries, with aligned interests. A land-locked state is like Laos, Mongolia, or maybe Chad – there are quite a number of them in the world. A geographically-disadvantaged state, is like Singapore. We have oceans around us, but we are surrounded by other countries that claim those oceans; it is at great disadvantage to us. Therefore, we have similar interests with the land-locked countries. Therefore we have a land-locked and geographically-disadvantaged pressure group, which was not ineffective in the UNCLOS negotiations. We are a small island state that has depended on maritime trade as our economic lifeline. We have had to defend the rights of freedom of navigation and overflight. The UNCLOS treaty provided for these rights, and has become an important legal reference point for claims over sea areas, and the types of activities permitted over sea areas. UNCLOS strikes a careful balance between the rights and interests of littoral states and those of other countries in the community of nations, helping to provide a way of arbitrating and resolving disputes peacefully. It is as well that we have UNCLOS because there is a framework to think about and to discuss the issues that the countries face in the South China Sea now.

UNCLOS was a generation ago. But currently, we are similarly actively engaged in the negotiations on climate change, including the major meeting taking place in Paris starting next week. Singapore is hardly a major emitter of greenhouse gases. Even if every Singaporean stopped breathing, it would not make any difference to global warming. But our Ambassadors for Climate Change have played active roles, lobbying for support and acting as a bridge between developed and developing countries and making ourselves useful. Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in his previous incarnation as Minister for the Environment and Water Resources has played a key role at previous meetings. Last year there was a Conference of the Parties in Lima, Peru, Minister Vivian was one of two "Friends of the Chair", the other chair was Norway, and the Friend of the Chair is someone who is supposed to help the Chair work out a deal for the conference members. And they worked behind the scenes to build consensus on a deal that enabled the conference to end on a positive, definite result, so that the process could go forward and go on to Paris and not break down with no agreement. We are small but it is a contribution we can make.

Occasionally, we are lucky enough to take a small initiative which leads to a more significant outcome, for example the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This story started ten years ago, when four small countries concluded a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in the Asia Pacific, called the "Pacific 4" (P4) countries. The four small countries were Singapore, Brunei, Chile and New Zealand. Not the first four that would come to mind if you are thinking about a promising FTA in the world, but four which were like-minded and had a purpose to the agreement. Their trade with one another was modest. The total impact of the P4 FTA on world trade was not significant. But we did the P4 in hope that it would form a nucleus which other Asia Pacific countries could later join and which would develop into a significant free trade arrangement in the Asia Pacific. And indeed, that is what happened. More countries wanted to be a part of this; one by one, they expressed interest – Australia, Canada, Peru, Vietnam. Then America came in – that changed the game completely. Then Japan joined in – late, but they came up to speed. So it became the TPP group with 12 countries, comprising 40 per cent of global GDP, including the US and Japan. The TPP is like an ugly duckling become a swan. The TPP looks completely different from the P4 – different in scale and ambition. Its significance is not just economic, but also strategic. It deepens ties between the US and Asia, makes for a more integrated and stable region, and is a pathway to an eventual, even more ambitious free trade area of the Asia Pacific. So we cannot claim paternity of the TPP, but we had something to do with the process which led to the TPP.

That is the first level we have to work. Internationally, make ourselves relevant and make a contribution.

Enhancing Cooperation and Stability in our Region

Secondly, we have to cultivate good relations amongst countries in our immediate region, namely Southeast Asia.

ASEAN is the cornerstone of our foreign policy. We work actively with our ASEAN partners, we participate in ASEAN projects, we help the less developed countries in ASEAN like Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam or Myanmar particularly, to narrow the development gap through the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI). And we work hard to forge ASEAN consensus on common issues, whether it is pursuing economic integration within ASEAN members, or tackling transboundary haze pollution which is a problem shared by many ASEAN countries.

We are one of the smaller ASEAN countries. We are not in a dominant position but we do our part. And we also work with our ASEAN partners in broader forums, outside of ASEAN, to make ASEAN an effective and credible player in wider regional and multilateral fora. For example, at the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum, the WTO or UN. Very often in these fora, ASEAN countries' interests are aligned so this gives Singapore a chance to make a contribution by working together, alongside our ASEAN partners, instead of opposite the table, negotiating against them. In the process, working side by side, we build closer ties with one another.

Of course, ASEAN diplomacy is not always about enhancing cooperation. From time to time, we also have to manage disputes and frictions, as we are doing in the case of the South China Sea. Singapore is not a claimant state, but we do have important interests at stake – freedom of navigation, peaceful resolution of disputes, respect for international law. We also have a role to play because we happen to be the coordinator for ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations for the next three years. We aim, as coordinator, to be an honest broker, dealing fairly and openly with all the parties because our aim is not only to preserve stability and peace in the region but also establish our reputation for being a reliable country to deal with, and also to enhance ASEAN's credibility as an effective organisation that can cope with difficult security issues.

Within ASEAN, our most intense relationships will be with our immediate neighbours, Malaysia and Indonesia. Last week I was in Kuala Lumpur, PM Najib and I opened an exhibition. It was called Titian Budaya – Bridging Cultures. It is a joint celebration of 50 years of Singapore-Malaysia friendship through art and culture. I spoke and so did PM Najib. I likened our relationship to the Malay proverb, bagai aur dengan tebing – it is like the river bank and the bamboo that grows on the river bank; they rely on one another. The bamboo hangs on to the river bank and the bamboo's roots hold the river bank together. They both co-exist, live and survive together.

Singapore and Malaysia depend on each other, and we have to work with each other. So Singapore works hard to strengthen our ties with Malaysia and Indonesia who are amongst our biggest economic partners. We cooperate in security, in the environment, in tourism, in so many areas. Our citizens visit each other’s countries, for holiday or work.

But of course, these are complex relationships, and inevitably, from time to time, problems will arise and when they do, we aim to resolve them dispassionately without affecting our wider relationship or raising the temperature. That is how we dealt with Pedra Branca. It is a dispute with Malaysia, for those of you who may have forgotten, over sovereignty over the island of Pedra Branca, of which Horsburg Lighthouse stands. The dispute began in 1979. It is a hard issue for both sides, but we agreed to refer it to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and finally in 2008, nearly 30 years after the dispute started, the ICJ made a ruling. Both countries accepted the decision, and did not let it affect our broader ties. And we continue to work together on win-win projects, like the High Speed Rail.

With Indonesia too, we have many areas of cooperation, and we hope to take them further with President Joko Widodo's administration. That is the second level of our foreign policy and has to do with our immediate neighbourhood – ASEAN – the Southeast Asia.

Ensuring Singapore’s Success

The third foundation for an active and effective foreign policy is whether Singapore is successful as a country. What do I mean? This means a prospering economy, the people live in peace and harmony, the country must be well-run and in particular, a safe country – able to defend ourselves, and determined to do so.

A failed state cannot have an effective foreign policy. The diplomats may be brilliant, sometimes they are. They can make eloquent speeches at the UN, often they do. But if the country is in a mess, nobody will take them seriously.

Because Singapore's economy has prospered, others want to do business with us. Because our society lives in harmony, and we have found solutions to many of our problems, like housing, healthcare, or water supply, others hold us in high regard and find us an interesting example from which they hope to glean some relevant ideas.

That is why we cooperate with many countries on projects that capitalise on our expertise and reputation, and this creates opportunities for our businesses and our people. We have G-to-G projects in China – Suzhou Industrial Park, Tianjin Eco City, and now Chongqing Western Regional Project. We have joint venture industrial parks in Indonesia, Vietnam, in fact in Vietnam it is called the VSIP, Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park. The "S" part is worth something in terms of branding. In India, our companies recently master-planned Amaravati, the new capital of Andhra Pradesh state, a greenfield site. Our water and utility companies have plants across Asia, in North Africa and in the Middle East. So we have to be successful as a country.

But diplomacy has to be backed by something more than words. Words are indeed important. Singapore takes words very seriously. Mr Rajaratnam was a master wordsmith, those of you who know him or remember the pieces which he wrote, both speeches as well as polemics. We take words very, very seriously. We weigh every word in the statements we issue. We honour every agreement that we enter into, and we expect the same of others. When newspapers misquote our words or misreport them somehow, we take a lot of trouble to put the record straight. But words are important to us, because we are a small country. As a Finnish diplomat once said – "As a small country, our only weapons are words and treaties".

We take them seriously, but ultimately, words have to be carried out and realised in actions and outcomes, consequences. Therefore, it is important for us to have a strong defence, to be able to protect Singapore when all else fails. Therefore, a strong and capable Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is a vital layer in our external relations and foreign policy. Fortunately we have had that. Without having had to fire a shot in anger, the SAF has helped keep Singapore safe, and ensured that we are taken seriously by others, now for 50 years. Long may it continue this way.

Singapore has been a successful country, but we must never let that go to our heads. Never believe that we are superior to others or that we know better than others how to solve their problems. We have not solved all of our own problems, much less do we know how to solve all of other people's problems. We do not pretend to be a city on a hill, nor a light unto nations, holding ourselves out as an example which every other country ought to follow. We solve our own problems, we succeed in our own way, we try to be good neighbours and friends – relevant to others but modest and understanding our place in the world. Other countries have many strengths that we lack. Their populations are as capable and as talented as ours, their circumstances are often different, their histories are different, and their challenges will often be more complex. Just as others hope to learn something from us, we too must always be eager to learn something new every time we meet someone from another country.

One United People

Fourthly, to be successful, we have to be one united people – united politically and also united as a cohesive, multi-racial society.

We have to be united politically. It does not mean there is no domestic politics, or political opposition. It means that citizens vote in open elections for who they wish to run the Government and that we have an opposition that will understand Singapore’s fundamental interests in the world and will not seek to undermine Singapore's fundamental interest, either to court foreign support or to gain political points. It means that after elections, we come together especially when we deal with other countries.

We have had opposition parties like that. Mr Chiam See Tong, who is retired now – whatever our domestic disagreements, arguments and policy perspectives, when he travels overseas, either in an official delegation or as a Parliamentary delegate, he stands up for Singapore and closes ranks. That is the norm which should really prevail in Singapore.

Political stability is important for us to maintain a clear direction and a clear understanding of our national interests, and to pursue that consistently over a long period. If we can do that, it can compensate for our lack of heft; it can give confidence to others that we will be reliable partners. If you look at other countries where the politics is fractious, as the political wind changes, so often too does foreign policy. This makes it much harder for others to work with that, because they cannot be sure that what you settle with one government, the next government will not abandon and overturn. Furthermore, it makes it easier for other countries to take advantage of you, because they can wait you out, knowing that your government is a lame duck will not last.

So we have to be united politically to have an effective foreign policy. We also have to be united regardless race, language and religion in order that we are not divided when we conduct our foreign policy and not weakened by others, taking advantage of our internal schisms. We may be Indian Singaporeans, Malay Singaporeans or Chinese Singaporeans, but above all, we are Singaporeans first. We have to see the world through Singaporean eyes and advance Singapore's interests and our common interest. There are ties of culture, language, race, kinship between our ethnic groups and corresponding groups overseas in India, China, in Southeast Asia. In fact in every case, the group overseas is bigger than the group in Singapore. There are more than a billion Chinese in the world, maybe two, three million in Singapore. Same with Indians, same with Malays. It is so not only of ethnic groups but also of our religious groups – Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists or, all here, all with big congregations or communities overseas. These ties are an asset, because they help us to understand and work with partners in China, India, Southeast Asia, or the Middle East. And yet they can also be a vulnerability, if external ethnic or religious pulls split us along these primordial fault lines. So we have to keep working at our racial and religious harmony, and keep on strengthening our shared Singaporean identity.

We are a much more cohesive society and we have a much stronger Singapore identity now, but it did not use to be like this. In the 1970s, the Chinese table tennis team came to Singapore – it was ping pong diplomacy. They played against the Singapore team, and the Singapore crowd cheered the Chinese team. In 1984, Indian troops assaulted the Golden Temple in Amritsar, there was a reaction. Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguard, there was a reaction in Singapore. So external events have a pull on us; unequally, different parts of our society. Today, our identity is clearer, stronger, we are proud to be Singaporean. At the SEA Games, few months ago, when the music stopped playing, the crowd continued to sing Majulah Singapura! I think that is good, but for us, national identity will always be work-in-progress.

We are very careful in our ties with other countries, where race or religion can lead to misunderstanding. Take for example our relations with China, which are very good. But it is quite clear that we are Singapore, they are China, and we are different countries. We are not as President Xi Jinping said of Taiwan – two countries where you can break the bones, but the sinews are joined together – 打断骨头筋相连. When Singapore leaders meet Chinese leaders in formal meetings, we speak in English and use interpreters, even though many of our leaders understand and can speak Mandarin.

It is an important point of principle. Other countries may not realise this, and may think that because many Singaporeans are of Chinese descent, so Singapore is a Chinese society. For example, at international meetings, sometimes the leaders are provided with guides who wear national dress, so you can know whom to follow, where to walk to. Sometimes the guide assigned to Singapore, not so infrequently, will wear a red, Chinese cheongsam. A cheongsam is elegant, but it is not our national dress!

I once explained to a Japanese Prime Minister that a Singapore Chinese is different from a Chinese Chinese. I expounded why this was so. He listened to me carefully. He turned in puzzlement to his interpreter to ask, "What does Chinese Chinese mean?" It was an alien concept to him. Chinese are Chinese. What is a Chinese Chinese? But there are different ethnic Chinese groups and the distinction is critical to us in a multi-racial society.

This is not an issue unique to Singapore. In America, Henry Kissinger may be Jewish, Israel is a close ally of the US, but when Henry Kissinger became national Security Advisor and the US Secretary of State, he acted for the US interests, not Israel's. And he pushed Israel very hard to make peace settlement with Egypt.

In Singapore too, we have had five Foreign Ministers who are of Indian ethnic origin and yet, they have all taken a Singapore perspective and represented Singapore's interests, as Singaporeans and that is how it has to be.

Choice and Conviction

In the end both our external influence, and our domestic unity and success, comes down to our conviction as individual citizens of Singapore. We must be determined that we want to be Singaporean, to stand up in the world, and to be a shining red dot.

As Mr Rajaratnam said – "Being Singaporean is a matter not of ancestry, but of choice and conviction". If we make that choice and we have that conviction that we want Singapore to endure and prevail, then the rest can follow.

Others are watching us too, to see whether Singaporeans have that conviction, whether we have that fight in us but also whether we have that heart in us, to be more than just people focused on their own narrow success. It shows in the spirit of our soldiers, those serving their National Service Full-time, and those in NS units – our will to fight for what we cherish and believe in. It shows in how we help one another and our neighbours. For example, when there was a tsunami in Indonesia, SAF went and helped out to rescue and distribute supplies and to bring aid and succour, when it was desperately needed. During the haze recently, volunteers from Relief.sg and Let's Help Kalimantan travelled to Kalimantan and Sumatra multiple times to deliver masks to the locals. They worked alongside international organisations, they also worked with the Indonesian government, and they brought about change in a small but tangible useful way. Yes, we defend our corner, and care for our own people, but our people are not narrow-minded. We have to show a generosity of spirit, and to be compassionate towards others.

And that was one of the reasons why Mr Rajaratnam was a successful Foreign Minister. Because he fought for Singapore's interests but at the same time, he cared for others, he got along with others, he was able to talk with other Foreign Ministers from other countries and strike up a rapport with them and be able to make progress with them on issues which matter to both of us.

So even from a narrow point of view this is positive. But actually it should be fundamental that we are Singaporeans, and being generous to others is part of the psyche of a Singaporean. If we have that conviction, if we have that mindset, then the rest will follow. We will be one united people, we can achieve success for Singapore. Then Singapore can have an effective foreign policy, and we can keep our little red dot shining bright in the world.

Thank you very much

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the 8th S Rajaratnam Lecture on 27 Nov 2015 (MCI Photo by Chwee)