It is axiomatic that strategic interests of an enduring nature ought to outlast politics that blow with the wind. After all, the former tends to be grounded in reality, whereas the latter might be swayed by prevailing opinion rather than hard facts. Singapore's emphasis on long-term, strategic thinking is evident in its efforts in many spheres, including building partnerships with friendly nations.
Its ties with Australia exemplify this. The two countries were described recently by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as being "politically like- minded, strategically aligned and economically complementary", following what his Australian counterpart, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, called a "massive upgrade" in bilateral ties. Both countries, in other words, operate on broadly the same wavelength. So much so that these ties are unlikely to be affected by the outcome of Australia's polls in July, given what The Australian headlined as "Singapore's rich history with Australia". Diplomatic ties extend over 50 years, Australia being the first country to establish relations with Singapore.
As Australia's fifth-largest trading and investment partner, it is mutually beneficial to develop these links over the long term. The focus on technology would excite those bursting with fresh ideas, as well as investors. An innovation "landing pad", for example, will benefit market-ready ventures by connecting start-ups, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Links are also to be forged between the National Research Foundation and A*Star in Singapore and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia's federal agency for scientific research .
This is just one aspect of the plans announced which are built on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership adopted last year. Some work remains to be done concerning the details, but the wide-ranging measures entail an updated Singapore-Australia Free Trade Agreement that caters to contemporary needs; the recognition of more higher qualifications; greater school interaction via online learning and teacher exchanges; opportunities for working holidays; and funding for local artists to showcase their works in Australia. Significantly, there is mutual recognition of the strategic benefits of security cooperation. At a time when terror threats abound, there is value in enhancing information-sharing in areas like counter-terrorism. For Singapore, what is particularly crucial is the scope to maintain its military capability via training opportunities that are not available in a land-scarce nation. The offer of an area 10 times the size of Singapore in Queensland, which will allow existing facilities to be expanded, was worth the $2.25 billion investment. This in turn will boost northern Queensland's economy. In security, as in other areas, it's practical, win-win approaches like this that make sense for all.