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The Indian news organisation NDTV has reported that Singapore has asked India to use Changi Naval Base for its warships.
The report says that the Indian navy “will be able to refuel, restock and, if needed, rearm at Singapore’s latest naval base before continuing their mission” in the South China Sea.
It further notes that the move is “a combined effort” between Singapore and India to counter the increasing presence of the Chinese in South East Asia and the Indian Ocean region.
This news seems to be confirmed in the Mindef’s website post.
What is even more disturbing is that the report quotes Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen as saying: “I would respond categorically – not only would we be more comfortable, we would encourage the Indian Navy to visit Changi Naval base more often.”
All this is happening against the backdrop of Singapore trying to repair our damaged relations with China.
After getting Singapore excluded from the One Belt One Road summit in Beijing earlier this year, PM Lee Hsien Loong visited China in September and assured everyone that relations with China “are more than stable, they are in a good state”.
The development took place as Singapore comes under scrutiny for supporting the United States navy at Changi Naval Base in the ongoing dispute over the islands in the South China Sea.
There are three issues at stake here:
One, how will such a so-called “combined effort” with India to counter China serve Singapore’s interests? Why is Dr Ng Eng Hen “encouraging” India to use our naval facilities? If the quote in the NDTV report is inaccurate, Dr Ng should refute it immediately.
Two, why is the PAP unnecessarily dragging Singapore into a theatre of armed conflict by encouraging countries to use us as a war-staging area. The biggest loser, should hostilities break out between these countries, would be Singapore.
Three, PM Lee seems to be speaking from both sides of his mouth. On the one hand, he says that he wants to have good relations with Beijing but, on the other, he seems to be working with India militarily to counter China.
If we are going to be taken seriously as an honest broker in maintaining peace and stability in the region, such confusing and contradictory moves do not help.
We run the danger of being seen, or worse, treated as a double-headed snake that cannot be trusted by anyone. This is especially problematic as we take over the Chairmanship of ASEAN next year.
As the SDP has said repeatedly, we are a small country and we should not take sides in international disputes between regional giants. Singapore’s future depends on goodwill and healthy relations with our neighbours in the region and throughout the world.
The current PAP administration seems to be dragging Singapore in the opposite and this is a dangerous game that the party is playing.