#TIL Foreign policy of Non alignment
📷: Then Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr S. Rajaratnam (1965); Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore
TIL Even in 1965, it was necessary for a newly independent Singapore to stick to a foreign policy of non-alignment.
Singapore’s then-Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr S. Rajaratnam said in Parliament on 17 December that year: “because to be aligned to any big country would eventually have meant the loss of our freedom of action even in domestic fields.”
He also made these points:
Non-alignment means avoiding entanglements in power conflicts. Around that time, big power conflicts were raging in Southeast Asia. Big power national interests are not always identical with ours. Also, aligning with one side can contribute to greater instability in the region.
Non-alignment does not mean indifference to the real issues of peace and war or feigning blindness as to what is right and wrong. A non-aligned policy gives us greater freedom — to make pronouncements or adopt stands purely on the merits.
Our stand in specific international issues will be coloured by national interests — the promotion of national interests is the essence of the foreign policy of all countries, big and small. In the case of Singapore, our ultimate national interests are the preservation of the essential values on which our society is founded.
The pursuit of our national interests also has to be balanced against the reality of interdependence between nations — which requires regard to the national interests of one’s partners and friends. However, this need not give rise to insurmountable difficulties if there is broad coincidence of views between the partners as to their ultimate national interests.
That was 57 years ago. They still apply today — as Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said at MFA’s Committee of Supply Debate on 3 March 2022, “we make decisions based on our long-term national interests, and we make it clear to both that we will not be a proxy, vassal state or a cat’s paw for one side or the other. And we have not shied away from standing up for ourselves and disagreeing on issues when necessary”.