SINGAPORE - The early years were difficult for Singapore, and the country would not have made it without the support of friendly neigbours and regional and international partners.
President Tony Tan Keng Yam said this on Sunday, as he thanked foreign dignitaries and government representatives at a lunch he hosted, for their countries' important contributions to Singapore's development.
He said: "We are deeply honoured by your presence today. As we stand on the cusp of a new era, we look forward to further deepening relations with you. Thank you for making the Singapore Story possible."
Foreign dignitaries and government representatives from 18 countries are in Singapore to attend Sunday's National Day Parade (NDP), for the first time since 1969.
Welcoming them to Singapore, Dr Tan said the country has come a long way since its independence fifty years ago in 1965. That year, on Aug 9, Singapore was expelled from Malaysia.
With numerous limitations, such as having no natural resources, Singapore's survival was in doubt then, said Dr Tan.
But the country's late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his team of leaders overcame these challenges with guts, conviction and perseverance, he added.
However, said Dr Tan, Singapore could not have made it on its own.
He said the country was fortunate to have like-minded neighbours who believed that regional security and cooperation were critical in promoting the development of South-east Asia.
This shared vision was what gave rise to the formation of Asean, which is crucial to Singapore's security and economic well-being, he added.
Dr Tan said other regional and international partners also helped Singapore in its formative years.
The Commonwealth, for example, by welcoming Singapore as a new member a few months after independence, had enabled Singapore's government to connect with government's around the world.
The UK, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand also signed the Five Power Defence Arrangements in the same year, that helped assure Singapore's security when it was still developing its own armed forces, said Dr Tan.
And Singapore also benefited from technical assistance and expert advice from international organisations. The late Dutch economist Albert Winsemius, who helped formulate Singapore's economic policy, had led the United Nations Survey Mission to Singapore in 1961, for instance.
Quoting Singapore's founding Prime Minister, who died in March this year, Dr Tan said: "Mr Lee once said that as a small country, Singapore has to live with the world as it is, not as we wish it should be."
He noted that the world will become more complex and inter-dependent in the next 50 years, and called for "a more vigilant and coordinated international community" to work together to solve regional and global problems, "to make the world better for future generations".
Foreign dignitaries here include Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak, Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key.
Singapore's Foreign Affairs Ministry said that all foreign guests invited are members of the East Asia Summit and United Kingdom.
Other foreign dignitaries and senior foreign representatives include Chinese Vice-President Li Yuanchao, Indonesian Vice-President Jusuf Kalla and Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who is here as Queen Elizabeth's representative.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Foreign Minsiter K. Shanmugam were also at the lunch.