Singapore: A top Singaporean diplomat described India as “stupid”, saying the country was “half in, half out” of the ASEAN grouping, according to leaked US cables.
The whistle-blower website WikiLeaks released several US State Department cables that contained controversial comments by senior Singaporean foreign affairs officials on India and other Asian allies like Malaysia, Thailand and Japan.
The cables containing comments made during Singaporean diplomats’ meetings with senior US officials such as Deputy Secretary of Defence for East Asia David Sedney between 2008 and last year were exclusively leaked to Australia’s Fairfax Media Group.
In one of the cables, Singapore’s Ambassador at large Tommy Koh called Japan “the big fat loser” in the context of improving ties between China and ASEAN.
According to Australian newspapers which carried the contents of the cables, Koh attributed the relative decline of Japan’s position in the region to its “stupidity, bad leadership and lack of vision.”
Koh was “equally merciless towards India, describing his ‘stupid Indian friends’ as ‘half in, half out’ of ASEAN,” a leaked cable said.
ASEAN — the Association of South East Asian Nations in which India has an observer status — is made up of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The leaked cables also contained comments from former permanent secretary at Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Ministry Peter Ho and permanent secretary Bilahari Kausikan on the political situation and leadership in Malaysia and Thailand.
“A lack of competent leadership is a real problem for Malaysia,” Kausikan told Sedney, according to a cable dated September 2008.
As such, “the situation in neighbouring Malaysia is confused and dangerous,” fuelled by a “distinct possibility of racial conflict” that could see ethnic Chinese “flee” Malaysia and “overwhelm” Singapore, Kausikan was quoted as saying.
Peter Ho reportedly described Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak as “an opportunist” who “would not hesitate” to be critical of Singapore if “it is expedient for him to do so.”
He said allegations linking Najib to the murder of a Mongolian woman in 2006, which the leader has strongly rejected, would continue to “haunt” his political fortunes, the leaked cables showed.
Kausikan was also critical of the Thai government in 2008, labelling then premier Thaksin Shinawatra as “corrupt” along with “everyone else, including the opposition.”
He also said the Thai crown prince was “very erratic, and easily subject to influence,” and warned of continued instability in Thailand.
Other notable comments about regional affairs made by Kausikan in September 2008 included his reported claim that Myanmar’s neighbours, including China and India, are “more concerned with stability than justice” and they feared the Burmese junta’s demise could produce “an Asian reprise of the breakup of Yugoslavia,” according to the Australian media.
Singapore’s Foreign Affairs Ministry expressed deep concern over the damaging actions of WikiLeaks.
The “selective release of documents, especially when taken out of context, will only serve to sow confusion and fail to provide a complete picture of the important issues that were being discussed amongst leaders in the strictest (norm) of confidentiality,” a ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the ‘Straits Times’.