Asia may be a "bright spot" amid concerns about terrorism, civil strife and economic crises, but the region's continued growth cannot be taken for granted, said President Tony Tan Keng Yam yesterday.
Its stability is crucial to the survival and prosperity of Singapore which, as a small country, has to stay relevant "to our partners'', he added. To do so, it is actively involved in international and regional fora that "encourage constructive engagement and foster regional stability".
Dr Tan was speaking at a dinner at the Istana for participants of Asia Rising Dialogue, a closed-door conference held yesterday. The one-day event, with the theme "Asia rising and our shared future'', was organised by the Asia Society Policy Institute and the S. Rajaratnam Endowment, a foundation aimed at promoting peace and stability in the region.
Asia's growth, the President noted, continues to be driven by the United States, China and Japan. And India's "Act East" policy is expected to deepen its economic and strategic engagement in the region.
Closer to home, the soon-to-be-formed Asean Economic Community - a common market with 625 million people in 10 countries with a combined gross domestic product of $3.6 trillion - would create freer movement of trade and capital, he added.
But there are dark clouds, he warned. Territorial disputes in the South and East China seas, the rising threat of terrorism and extremism, and growing nationalism, "if not properly managed, could derail the region's growth path".
Other tricky situations include income disparities. Amid these challenges, Singapore, as a small country and a hub that taps its strategic location, makes itself relevant by being active in fora, he said.
At the conference, 50 political leaders, businessmen and thinkers from around the world discussed issues such as the region's geopolitics and economic opportunities.
Harvard University political scientist Graham Allison gave a keynote address while Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, who is president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, discussed the rise of China and India, and its worldwide impact.