Singapore’s Foreign Policy and Its Relations with Other Countries

Chief tenets of foreign policy of Singapore
If you want to understand the foreign policy of Singapore and its relations with the rest of the world, we have to first understand the chief tenets of Singapore’s foreign policy.  Firstly, Singapore is a small island state; secondly, the prime purpose of Singapore’s foreign policy is to ensure its survival, given its small size and its lack of resourcefulness; and thirdly, practical and power based “realpolitik” approach is active behind its wider foreign policy.

Establishment of ASEAN

Since Singapore got separated from Malaysia in 1965, and became an independent nation, its leaders soon realized that they were living in a world of economic interdependence and there was a need of institution building in the region, which was extremely important to propel the economic and political interests of Singapore.  So, Singapore took the leadership position in the region and became the founding member of ASEAN.  

Close friends of Singapore

Singapore is a member of the United Nations as well and has strong defense ties with US, UK and Israel.  However, it does not allow its military ties with Western countries to instill insecurity in its neighbors, especially Malaysia and Indonesia.  Malaysia, earlier, had a water supply dispute with Singapore, which strained their relationships, but the new leaderships in both the countries have resolved this issue and moved on.

Relationship with Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia

Singapore’s initiative to form ASEAN reaffirmed its regional position and helped in boosting ties with its neighbors, especially with Malaysia and Indonesia.  Today, both Malaysia and Singapore are two rapidly developing nations and they need each other in their quest for progress.  Singapore also has friendly ties with Philippines, which is also one of its neighbors. Philippines Singapore Action Plan covers cooperation on trade, economy, education, tourism, capital market, defense, information technology and culture, etc.

Relationship with Australia and European countries

Singapore also has very good relationship with its neighbor Australia.  Besides maintaining a high commission in Australia, both the countries have signed Singapore Australia Free Trade Agreement.  Both the countries have strong ties in trade, defense and security.  Singapore maintains its embassies and high commissions in European countries as well, such as Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Vatican, Hungary, Italy, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

Relationship with UK

Singapore shares special relationship with UK, its erstwhile colonial ruler, as a member of Commonwealth and a defense partner.  Singapore has signed Five Power Defense Agreements (FPDA) with UK, Malaysia, New Zealand and Australia.

Relationship with India

Singapore also shares extremely cordial relationship with India.  The historic ties between the two countries and a 300,000 strong Indian community in Singapore are responsible for high level cooperation in economy, technology, security and culture.  Singapore is the largest foreign direct investor in India.

Relationship with US and Canada

Singapore shares excellent relationship with North American countries such as Canada and US.  Singapore has strong defense ties with the United States and it backs almost all the US military campaigns worldwide.  The US has its naval and air force base in Singapore and the two countries also share good bilateral relationships in health, education and economy.  United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement is the only agreement of its kind the US has with any eastern nation.

Relationship with China, Japan, and Taiwan

Singapore also has very good relationships with China, Japan, and Taiwan, etc.  Despite some stalemate with China over Taiwan, both China and Singapore share strong trade relationships.  The head of the states of both the countries keep visiting each other’s capitals.

Relationship with Other countries

Singapore also has good relationships with Mexico, Israel, New Zealand, South Africa, Egypt and Pakistan.  Apart from defense ties, Singapore and Israel share warm relationships as far as culture, technology, healthcare and arts are concerned.