Expert calls for ‘win some, lose some’ way in Malaysia-Singapore talks

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad with his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong at a press conference yesterday. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: An academic specialising in international relations has suggested that Malaysia and Singapore take a piecemeal approach to resolving longstanding disagreements.

Speaking to FMT, Mohammad Fuad Othman of Universiti Utara Malaysia said resolutions to the many issues causing tension between the two countries would be “more achievable” if they were tackled one at a time according to a schedule they could agree on.

He also said each of the two sides needed to abandon its previous “take all or nothing” approach and instead look towards “winning some and forgoing some”.

Mohammad Fuad Othman.

Fuad, who heads the international relations department at his university, noted that prime ministers Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Lee Hsien Loong made a credible show of cordiality in their relationship at a press conference yesterday.

“This is the Asean way” of face saving, he remarked, but added that it had often led to beneficial results.

The press conference was preceded by two days of closed-door meetings between the two sides.

They discussed, among other things, issues concerning the maritime boundary, airspace claims, cross-border railway projects, congestion at the Malaysia-Singapore border and the 1962 Johor River Water Agreement.

They agreed to set up committees to look into the various areas of disagreement.

Mahathir announced that both countries had decided to accept recommendations made by the Malaysia-Singapore Working Group, including one that has since resulted in the suspension of port limit claims.

He also said a high-level committee had begun discussions on airspace issues.

Referring to the water agreement, he said Malaysia considered resolving the issue of pricing as an area of high priority.