Singapore's small geographical size makes the country "intrinsically not relevant," but it has overcome this handicap by succeeding both economically and politically, Foreign Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said on Monday.
Singapore's relevance can be seen in the active roles it plays - despite being small - in international and regional fora like the United Nations and Asean, said Mr Shanmugam in remarks at this year's Foreign Service Scholarship Awards on Monday.
Mr Shanmugam, who is also Law Minister, cited Singapore's role in creating more than 30 Free Trade Agreements with other countries and having defence arrangements with Asean nations. Having a voice at these multilateral discussions is "far more important for us than for a bigger country," he added.
Singapore's size, he said, means that people will talk to us only if we are relevant. And he added: "We are only relevant if we are successful."
He noted that what is decided at a global level whether in the UN or in the World Trade Organisation can have serious impacts on the country, because of Singapore's size and openness to trade.
"Diplomacy is our first line of defence.. I tell all of our officers: 'If you're not at the table, you could end up being on the menu," he told about 100 gathered guests, including scholars old and new.
Four scholars, selected from hundreds of applications, received their awards on Monday in a ceremony at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Mr Lian Kay Hian, 19, received the Overseas Merit Scholarship (Foreign Service). Mr Leon Lau, 21, and Ms Natasha Rodrigues and Ms Natasha Sim, both 19, all received the Singapore Government Scholarship (Foreign Service).