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August 30, 2007
Ties have seen healthy growth, set to improve: analysts

As Malaysia marks 50 years of independence on August 31, political observers say ties between Singapore and Malaysia have improved tremendously and are set to grow further.

The cordial and comfortable atmosphere between the leaders of the two countries at their retreat in Langkawi in May this year said it all.

According to observers, Singapore and Malaysia have learnt from past lessons and are making conscious efforts to strike out a new path of renewed friendship.

Dr Ooi Kee Beng, Fellow, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies said: "That's why when you hear dissenting voices in Malaysia about (Prime Minister) Abdullah being too soft on Singapore, you'll very quickly see damage control coming from the top, trying to cool things down. I think that's a sign that they do not want to go back to the old days.

"It was damaging for both sides and we're running out of time so to speak, given the rise of China and India. Neighbours have to have good fences. We can talk over the fence but the fence must remain."

Analysts add that over the last 50 years, Malaysia has progressed from a developing country to a newly industrialised nation.

And it has many plans ahead to propel its economy. This includes the Iskandar Development Region (IDR) project.

If the IDR succeeds, with the help of Singapore investments, bilateral ties are set to further improve.

But if the cooperation in IDR does not work, relations could suffer.

Another possible kink is the result of the judgement on the Pedra Branca case, which will be known in November.

"Diplomacy, so what you do is you bracket certain issues that are at the moment unresolvable or cannot be resolved as yet. And you wait for what diplomats or what political scientists would call the ripe moment, or the right moment for that problem to be resolved," said Dr Johan Saravanamuttu, visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

He added: "But in order to arrive at the right moment, you might have to carry on with other sources of relationships and improve your relationships in different sorts of way.

"It's also called confidence-building measures. You've got to have more confidence-building. Channel News Asia reports

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