Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Malaysia today, attending 10th ASEAN-India Summit and 13th East Asia Summit.
He will be in Singapore on Tuesday (November 24) when he will address the Indian community in the country. The Singapore NRI Forum is organising the event. I have consistently been a Modi critic but he still represents the country where I was born and bred.
I thought it was an opportunity for me to watch him speak live, so I signed up for attendance as you will see from the image with this post. I am not certain if I will attend it, though.
Singaporeans Barred From Event?: There are reports suggesting that people of Indian origin in Singapore are restricted from attending the event. I have not seen any reports to that effect appearing in the local media.
If the reports are true, I will see no reason why it should be challenged. Singapore is a country that practices racial tolerance and people of multiple ethnicities have been living in harmony.
This is Mr Modi’s second visit to Singapore since assuming power as Prime Minister of India. The first was in March to attend the funeral of Singapore’s founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.
But, unlike Modi, the others did not choose to connect with NRIs through public meetings. It may be a sign of the times with leaders connecting with people through the social media being the norm now.
Bust for Nehru: Nehru had visited Singapore a few times (even during the freedom struggle and later as PM), enhancing relations between the two countries. In his memory, Singapore also unveiled a commemorative bust of India’s first Prime Minister at the Asian Civilisations Museum in November 2011.
Set up by Singapore’s National Heritage Board, the bust is part of the country’s “Friends to Our Shores” series.
India’s “Look East” Policy: Lee Kuan Yew had great respect for Nehru and described him as “a staunch friend” who paved the way to India’s independence and won the hearts of millions through his vision of harmony and justice.
In contrast, Mr Modi and his party are doing all they can to bring discredit to Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi.
Narasimha Rao, a “statesman”: In 1994, when then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao visited Singapore he helped open up investment opportunities for India.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew had respect for Mr Rao and called the latter a statesman when he visited Singapore. At a conference that Mr Rao addressed, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Singapore sought to raise the Kashmir issue but I remember Mr Lee immediately intervening and silencing him. That was not a platform for raising polemical issues.
Mr Modi has the reputation of being racially divisive despite his recent comments about how unity in diversity is key to the development of India. The sincerity of the comments is in doubt as it is widely seen as an exercise in political opportunism.
G Joslin Vethakumar