Singapore's secret recipe - blend of discretion and discourse

Professor Kishore Mahbubani's commentary on small states and foreign policy has been met with unnecessary disdain and criticism (Qatar: Big lessons from a small country; July 1).

Like all other foreign policy and international events, the Qatar example was also subjected to numerous analysis and interpretation.

Perhaps Prof Mahbubani did not put the intention across clearly enough - but this was beautifully covered by Prof Tommy Koh, who noted that "international law serves as shield and sword but small countries must also be self-reliant" (Small countries must be self-reliant; July 4).

He illustrated that small states must indeed think like small states - fully understanding their capacity and developing self-reliance.

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Prof Kishore did not in any way mean that small countries should stay silent and bow in submission to larger surrounding countries.

What he meant was that small states should fully comprehend their needs and capacity, and calibrate their foreign policy accordingly.

Consider Singapore's brilliant balancing of relations between the East and West, our responses to the "One Country, Two Systems" policy, and our relations with Taiwan.

Former senior minister S. Jayakumar carefully formulated our foreign policy towards these matters, taking into consideration our needs as a small state and the underlying sensitivities.

Singapore is fortunate to have a team of brilliant minds steering our foreign policy. However, a good blend of discretion and discourse is the secret recipe to Singapore international success today.

Priscillia Tan (Ms)