Not in Singapore's interest to call others names

Mr Ben Ho Wan Beng rightly pointed to the need for Singapore to maintain a modern and robust military capability that will go hand in hand with our diplomatic expertise (Diplomacy matters, but deterrence even more so, March 5).

In his Opinion piece, Mr Ho raised a few examples of inter-state tensions that have contributed to the growing instability of the geopolitical sphere, including the trade spat between China and the United States, the regional territorial disputes over the South China Sea, the uncertainty of Indonesia's political future with its nearing election and the multi-faceted bilateral strains between Singapore and Malaysia.

All of the above were put in very objective terms.

Russia, however, was held up as an example of a revisionist power, connoted negatively, because of its aggrandisement in Crimea.

This singling out of one country seems to fly in the face of his take on Singapore's "Double-D" security policy. It is not in Singapore's prerogative or interest to call anyone names, least of all a major power.

While our nation does indeed punch above our weight in many areas, at the end of the day, our security lies in our cognisance that we are a small state and that neutrality is the core of our survival and existence.

That does not mean we won't stand up and be counted, but telling someone "what you have done is bad" is very different from saying "you are bad". The latter is a denigration of character.

Singaporeans should support the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' policy of engaging all major stakeholders in a principled and disciplined manner.

Only then can Singapore stay credible as a valued mediator, and remain secure as a sovereign nation that strives to promote friendly relations with all.

Lily Ong (Madam)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2019, with the headline 'Not in S'pore's interest to call others names'. Print Edition | Subscribe