Book Review: Looking East To Look West - Lee Kuan Yew's Mission India

January 24, 2010
Linette Lim

A recent book by veteran Indian journalist, Sunanda Datta-Ray, has sparked some controversy here.

In Looking East To Look West - Lee Kuan Yew's Mission India, Datta-Ray proposes that the Singapore's engagement with India is not a recent phenomenon. The Indian fever raging in Singapore has less to do with India's rise as a global power and more to do with India and Singapore's shared history. The India-Singapore love affair, according to Datta-Ray, has had its seeds sown since Lee was a law student at Cambridge. An admirer of Nehru, the young Lee was at that time, also spearheading a political movement to overthrow British rule. P N Balji, reviewing the book in the Singapore daily Today, called this angle 'audacious'.

An audacious angle is always good for getting people to think and discuss what they have never considered before. In this aspect, Datta-Ray has succeeded. But he goes beyond making bold and original claims simply for the sake of raising eyebrows. The book gives a first-hand view into India-Singapore relations, and is peppered with anecdotes from key diplomats. To Datta-Ray's credit, the book also discusses the pragmatism behind the India-Singapore relationship: Geo-politics. Singapore needed good relations with India to demonstrate that the city state with an ethnic Chinese majority, was not going to become a satellite of China.

Singapore is India's second largest investor in terms of Foreign Direct Investments, beating countries with far larger economies, like the United States and Japan. Not many people know this. And even fewer know that Singapore is a net recipient of migrant workers from South Asia. These workers with their blood and sweat, build the modern Singapore that we see today. India and Singapore's destinies have been intertwined since the conception of their national identities and one will not do without the other. Indeed, as Lee Kuan Yew said, Asia would be submerged if India did not emerge.

Linette Lim is student from Singapore with a deep interest in traveling and writing about society and culture. She started writing about India during a 5-month work stint in Bangalore and Hyderabad and is plotting a return to India as soon as she graduates.
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Book Review: Looking East To Look West - Lee Kuan Yew's Mission India


Author: Linette Lim


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