Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Updated: Brothers again?

Singapore is suddenly back on good terms with its two immediate neighbours -- Indonesia and Malaysia.

The Straits Times ran a page one story today on Singapore striking a deal with Indonesia to resolve the protracted extradition treaty. The paper also ran a picture of Singapore Foreign Minister George Yeo (back to camera in the ST pix) hugging his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirajuda after the agreement was announced.

The signing of the extradition and defence pacts will take place in the Indonesian island of Bali. Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will witness the actual signing of the agreements.

This will definitely come as a relief to the two countries after two long years of negotiation. But details of the two agreements have not been disclosed yet.

ST said Indonesia has said previously that an extradition pact is crucial in its fight against corruption and would pave the way for going after Indonesians allegedly involved in graft cases who fled the country. The Defence Cooperation Agreement was proposed to restore defence cooperation after Indonesia froze the use of a joint military training area in 2003.

And there are signs of warming ties between Singapore and Malaysia. Hsien Loong and several ministers will visit Malaysia next month. Earlier this month, the National University of Singapore awarded an honorary doctorate to the Sultan of Johor.

Is the rapprochement real and lasting? Will it translate into real balance of benefits for Singapore and its two close neighbours? Can Singapore also resume strong ties with Thailand following the Shin-Temasek debacle? Will Singapore resolve its myriad outstanding bilateral problems, especially with Malaysia?

Will big brothers Indonesia and Malaysia finally resume the sale of sand to Singapore?

Update (17 November 2007): The proposed extradition and defence pacts between Indonesia and Singapore have since been unraveled.

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