'Little red dot' inherits Lee's pragmatic diplomacy

'Little red dot' inherits Lee's pragmatic diplomacy
PHOTO: The Straits Times

SINGAPORE - The island state is affectionately known as "little red dot" by many. But the name, used because on a map the country is little more than a dot, did not start its life expressing positive sentiments, however, Singapore's diplomatic prowess is not proportional to its size.

Former Indonesian President B.J. Habibie, who led his country during the Asian currency crisis of 1997, is believed to have been the first to use the term, though he later denied saying it.

In the 1998 Aug. 4 edition of the Asian Wall Street Journal, he was quoted as saying, "It's OK with me, but there are 211 million people [in Indonesia]." He continued, "Look at that map. All the green is Indonesia. And that red dot is Singapore. Look at that."

Habibie appeared not to have positive feelings about Singapore. The slight about his smaller neighbour which he apparently made while pointing at the map naturally became controversial in Southeast Asia.

Then Singaporean Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong promptly reciprocated with poignant sarcasm during a speech on Aug. 23.

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