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From India With Love…A Little Gesture & The Long Game

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In the context of inter-country realpolitik, attending state funerals is more than just deciding where to lunch.

Putting aside SE Asia countries, the EU has no single representation and therefore, the 3 countries that matter most internationally are USA, China and India.

Only India is represented by her sitting Prime Minister Modi. Why does Mr Lee Kuan Yew deserve such an honour fr rockstar PM Modi even though the two have never met and, from available records, Modi never once spoke about LKY?

Not only that, PM Modi has taken the rare step of declaring Mar 29 a national day of mourning.

What is behind this realpolitik of a move? What have Singaporeans done to deserve such an honour? Here’s my guess.

George Yeo revealed in a recent CNA interview that LKY had misgivings about India. In fact, “He was profoundly skeptical. And never failed, afterwards, to send me articles which expressed skepticism about India’s development.”

Well, thanks, or no thanks, to Georgie Boy who strongly advocated for the India-Singapore CECA (Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement) signed on 29 June 2005. Georgie was ‘rewarded’ with a seat in the Governing Board of Nalanda University in India.

Courtesy of the CECA, Indian PMETs, particularly but not confined entirely to the IT sector, have been washing up our shores since 2005. In fact, according to this article, Singapore is obliged to allow “127 kinds of professionals” to work in Singapore for up to a year, apparently without being classified under any employment pass (ep) category. According to India’s Business Standard, there are about “200,000 non-resident Indians in Singapore working in ITES, financial services and scientific research sectors among others.” It is not clear if appeals can be made to extend, due to business exigencies, the employment after the one-year period is up.


MOM Dec 2014 statistics show a grand total of 1,133,200 ‘Foreign Workforce excluding foreign domestic workers’. As MOM refuses to give the breakdown, we can reasonably guess that at least 40% may be of Indian origin i.e. 453,280.


If these 200,000 are not included in the ep statistics, then the number of Indians ‘doing jobs that Singaporeans cannot or will not do’ are in the region of 650,000. Together with their dependents and happy wanderers on long-term vacation, is it any wonder that buses, trains and cabs are mostly filled with Indians in and around the Changi Business Park and they dominate the faces in the crowd at Shenton Way, construction sites and other areas in Singapore on any given workday?


Now, if we assume the average annual salary to be just S$30,000/yr, we are looking at about some serious S$19.5billion, a huge chunk of which will be remitted to India to rebuild their villages, feed mouths and cloth bodies.


It is little wonder that back in Feb 2013, India decried CECA violation by Singapore, protesting against SG’s tightening of employment of Foreign Talent after the PWP outcry. India submitted a request to address the issue. We are none the wiser our non-transparent and non-accountable PAP govt’s response to shed light on exactly how many Indian nationals SG is already hosting compared to any other nationality. All we know is that we continue to see more and more non-Singlish-speaking Indians on our roads, in private cars, in our lifts, at restaurants, food centres – and in our faces.


Does the above revelation explain why PM Modi’s advisors have convinced him to put aside precious time to honour ‘the lion among leaders’ and 29 Mar 2015 a national day of mourning even though ambassadors must have reported back that LKY was not enthusiastic about the CECA with India? No doubt, reports of increasing Singaporeans’ unhappiness with foreign workers and social media chatter whenever a rape case in India occurs must have also reached Modi.


Can PAP leaders, Lee Hsien Loong in particular, see the long game in India’s little gesture – to pre-empt any changes to the CECA that is biased in helping PM Modi employ 650,000 or more from India.

It is times like these that we wish for the insightfulness of the GrandMaster LKY to separate the covert from the overt actions of India for his son and cabinet.



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