Strengthen ties with Asean neighbours

Asean has been urged to take a bolder and firmer collective stand on issues affecting the region (Asean@50: The next chapter, and Finding the right equilibrium; both published on Aug 7).

There have been calls for greater integration and unity in the face of geopolitical rivalries and the threat of terrorism, as well as for the need to make Asean relevant in the fast-changing world.

Singapore has always been one of the most active members in Asean.

As we assume the Asean chairmanship next year, our involvement will be more intense.

But there are risks associated with the higher involvement, especially in affairs between Asean and nations outside the region.

In the last 50 years, there have been many half-hearted undertakings from member nations towards building stronger regionalism and forging greater regional interests.

Bilateral trust between Asean nations has been slow in the making. There is still a long way to go for us to attain an "all for one, one for all" solidarity.

Singapore should, therefore, be cautious in playing its role in Asean, lest it becomes a scapegoat if geopolitical developments take a turn for the worse.

Our best bets are forging better bilateral relationships on all fronts with our Asean neighbours, and actively engaging the great powers to safeguard and advance our national interests.

Albert Ng Ya Ken

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2017, with the headline 'Strengthen ties with Asean neighbours'. Print Edition | Subscribe