Bilahari Kausikan Keynote Speaker

  • Former Permanent Representative to the UN
  • Chairman of the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore
  • 37-year career in Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Bilahari Kausikan's Biography

Bilahari Kausikan is a Singaporean academic and retired diplomat. He was Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the former ambassador to the UN and Russia. Bilahari is currently Chairman of the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore.

Bilahari Kausikan joined the civil service in 1981. He was appointed as Singapore’s ambassador to the newly formed Russian Federation in 1994, and subsequently as ambassador to the United Nations (1995 – 1998). Bilahari was appointed Second Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2001, and promoted to Permanent Secretary in 2010.

After a 37-year career in Singapore’s foreign relations, Bilahari is known to speak his mind about the issues confronting the country and the wider region. He believes the civil service has become too accomodative and argues that ‘when you are polite, nothing gets done.’ He has called for Singapore to be more muscular in its own declicate diplomatic relations, saying that true neurality means ‘knowing your own interests, taking positions based on your own interests and not allowing others to define your interests for you by default‘. Furthermore, he warns of the danger of passivity in relation to the current US-China split, saying there is no ‘sweet spot’ to keep both the Chinese and Americans ‘happy’.

Bilahari studied political science at the University of Singapore before receiving a scholarship to embark on a PhD in international relations at Columbia University. However, he decided against an academic career and retured to Singapore to join the Foreign Ministry. He is the author of Singapore is Not an Island: Views on Singapore Foreign Policy (2017).

Speaking topics include: 

  • US-China relations 
  • Taiwan as a flashpoint
  • Future of Myanmar 
  • South-East Asian politics 
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Videos of Bilahari Kausikan

'How to Think about South-East Asia'
'How to Think about South-East Asia'
Talking US-China tensions with Chatham House
Talking US-China tensions with Chatham House

Books by Bilahari Kausikan

Singapore is Not an Island: Views on Singapore Foreign Policy

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