New Delhi: Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong‘s invocation of India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru in that country’s parliament, and his references to Indian MPs having “criminal, rape and murder charges” have resulted in New Delhi summoning High Commissioner Simon Wong Thursday, and calling the remarks “uncalled for, unnecessary and unacceptable”.
According to sources, Singapore PM Lee’s statements on the Indian MPs in the Lok Sabha having “criminal charges” has irked the Narendra Modi government, despite both leaders having a bonhomie of sorts for the last several years.
Raising the matter with the Singaporean envoy, the Ministry of External Affairs has told him that PM Lee’s statements made in their parliament Wednesday were “uncalled for and unnecessary” in the context of the subject which he was speaking about, official sources said.
The sources also said while the PM of that country was free to discuss what he wants in the Singapore parliament, “they cannot comment on India and its democracy”.
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‘Lok Sabha MPs having criminal charges’
Addressing a domestic issue, PM Lee Wednesday said, “most countries are founded and start off on the basis of high ideals and noble values. But more often than not, beyond the founding leaders and the pioneer generation, over decades and generations, gradually things change”.
“Things start off with passionate intensity. The leaders, who fought for and won independence, are often exceptional individuals of great courage, immense culture, and outstanding ability. They came through the crucible of fire and emerged as leaders of men and nations. They are the David Ben-Gurions, the Jawaharlal Nehrus, and we have our own too,” the 70-year old Lee said.
Lee, who has been in office now for 18 years, went on to say, “While Nehru’s India has become one where, according to media reports, almost half the MPs in the Lok Sabha have criminal charges pending against them, including charges of rape and murder. Though it is also said that many of these allegations are politically motivated.”
“This requires us to uphold integrity, enforce rules and standards, apply the same rules equally to everyone, and make sure nobody is above the law. If we can do that — consistently, persistently, unflinchingly — then we have a shot at making things work. People can trust our leaders, our systems, and our institutions,” he continued.
“Our democracy can mature, deepen and grow more resilient, as both the governed and the governing embrace and express the right norms and values. Singapore can continue to flourish. But if we allow ourselves to slacken — loosen standards here, just a bit; overlook a lie there, just this time — the virtuous cycle will stutter and start to fail,” he added.
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Strong bilateral ties
Bilateral ties between India and Singapore have been on a positive trajectory under the Modi government, and it was considered to be a key country in New Delhi’s ‘Act East Policy’ when the Indian PM went on a visit to that country in 2018.
Both leaders had even bonded over a ‘dosa meal’ in 2015, even as they discussed ways to boost bilateral ties.
Modi and Lee had last met in October 2021 on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Rome.
“Had an excellent meeting with PM @leehsienloong on ways to further scale up the friendship between India and Singapore. Our talks focused on trade, culture, and other subjects,” Modi had tweeted after meeting Lee.
In recent times, political discourse in India has again brought into the spotlight the role and policies laid down by Nehru, especially his dealing with China.
Earlier this month, PM Modi invoked Nehru and some of the statements made by him to attack the Congress party in Parliament.
(Edited by Manoj Ramachandran)
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