26 March 2015
MANY readers questioned the second-deck title of my book Looking East to Look West on India and South-east Asia. How could I speak of Lee Kuan Yew’s Mission India, they asked, when everything happened on Goh Chok Tong’s watch long after Mr Lee had ceased to be prime minister?
There’s a simple answer. Mr Lee didn’t have to wait for the promise of “Incredible India” to be realised. He saw struggling and poverty-stricken India as an Asian player long before Indians turned again to their ancient footprints in the Sri Vijaya and Majapahit empires. Mr Goh warned twice about what he regarded as India’s hegemonistic and militaristic trends but Mr Lee hoped India would one day become what The Straits Times called the “guardian of South-east Asia” when Britain packed her bags and withdrew from the region.
It was this ability to peer into the crystal ball of the future that made Mr Lee one of the most extraordinary personalities that Asia, and indeed the world, has produced. Posterity alone can do justice to his multi-faceted genius, for the people he interacted with and the events he shaped are still too vividly remembered to permit an impartial audit. But it can be said without fear of contradiction that no other Afro-Asian leader has led his country to independence and lived to fulfil its promise.
…He was no longer prime minister when Singapore took its other major initiative to draw India into Asian affairs. But Ong Keng Yong, Asean secretary-general (2003-09), said that “the strategy was MM’s, the stamina was SM’s”. Moreover, Mr Lee stepped up his visits to India (14 up to 2005 alone) with which Singapore signed significant defence and economic agreements and forged a strategic partnership. Late in life, he had the satisfaction of seeing the realisation of the early hope that took him to India privately in 1959.
IDSS / RSIS / Print
Last updated on 01/12/2015