Small nations need to stick to core values

I applaud Mr Toh Cheng Seong for outlining the challenges of being a diplomat for a small country like Singapore (Continue policy of pragmatism and prudence; Forum Online, July 6).

It takes a certain skill to thrive as a small shrimp in a sea filled with much larger and meaner fish. Our diplomats should be commended for ensuring that the Singapore passport is consistently among the top five most powerful passports, despite Singapore having nothing tangible to offer the world.

How did this happen?

I believe the answer lies in sticking to our "brand" values. Mr Lee Kuan Yew and his team had a vision of a stable, green, clean and prosperous state governed by the rule of law.

This vision became part of Singapore's governing DNA and we became something that big and developed nations of the West and Japan trusted as well as a role model for developing nations.

Take the Michael Fay incident as an example. Our small nation could hold its own against the world's superpower because a good portion of American people agreed with us - if they didn't agree with the act of caning, they agreed that the law of the land should be upheld, no matter what their president said.

Second, it has helped that Singapore has avoided being seen as a "client" state of any particular power or any cause.

We have tried to walk an impartial line in major conflicts.

If you consider the fact that the presidents of mainland China and Taiwan felt they could meet in Singapore and shake hands for the world's cameras, we have for the most part been successful.

Another example is our Middle East policy, where we've kept on the good side of both Israel and the Arab world.

The respect that Singapore commands has been the key to our survival. As long as we remain true to our values and the vision set out by our founding fathers, we will survive.

Tang Li