Past Events

Looking East to Look West: Lee Kuan Yew’s Mission India

The India Club, Singapore

welcomes you to a Book Reading and Discussion with


“Looking East to Look West: Lee Kuan Yew’s Mission India".

Singapore’s “India Fever” has long been attributed to then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, and the bonhomie he established with Narasimha Rao and Manmohan Singh. Datta-Ray’s audacious new book delves further into the history of India-Singapore engagement, showing how central India always was to Lee Kuan Yew’s vision for Asia – and how ardently he worked to deepen ties with India in Singapore’s formative years. Singapore’s founding PM always believed that “Asia would submerge if India did not emerge". LKY was awe-struck by Nehru’s institution-building, and visited him often in Delhi (including a few weeks before his death). Among the startling revelations in the book is that LKY wrote to Shastri (and Nasser) seeking military assistance on the very day of Singapore’s separation from Malaysia.

Full of wonderful nuggets about personal engagement, deep historical insights and strategic analysis, Datta-Ray’s book begins with Suvarnabhumi (the name for SE Asia in the Indian epics, which found echoes in Srivijiya, Majapahit, Champa and other Hindu kingdoms across Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos), explores the romance of the 1950s, the estrangement in the Indira years, LKY’s disillusionment with India’s descent into autarky (and institutional decay) in the 1970s and 1980s, followed by the flowering of a mutually beneficial relationship encompassing economics, defence and societal links in the past twenty years. As the review in “India Today” remarked, Datta-Ray’s book explores “why LKY believe(d) in India long before Indians began to believe in themselves", delving dispassionately into both the highs and lows of the Singapore-India story.

Sunanda Datta-Ray was editor of Calcutta’s leading daily, The Statesman, in that newspaper’s heyday in the 1990s (when it was also a leading Delhi daily), and subsequently spent several years in Singapore as editorial consultant at the Straits Times. During this time, he was also affiliated with the Institute of South-east Asian Studies (ISEAS), and wrote the fascinating book that will be the focus of our program. It was based on 8 extensive conversations with Singapore’s founding Prime Minister (now Minister Mentor) Lee Kuan Yew, and is destined to become the definitive work on the history and evolution of India-Singapore relations.

Apart from his ever-stimulating columns in a variety of newspapers in India, the US, UK, Singapore and elsewhere, Mr. Datta-Ray is the author of several other books, including the seminal “Waiting for America". If there is time, we will open the discussion up for questions about that book as well.

Venue: Raffles Room, Tanglin Club
Date: Sunday, May 23rd 2010
Time: 11:30am-2pm (light lunch will be served afterwards).
Entrance: $35 for non-members; free for India Club members.
Copies of the book, “Looking East to Look West” will be available for purchase.

Travel sponsors: Jet Airways



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