With some citing concepts such as ‘Overseas Citizenship of India’ given by New Delhi to Indian diaspora as a middle path, Singapore has debated the option of dual citizenship for its nationals, according to media reports.
Academics and diplomats have raised the pros and cons of allowing Singaporeans to have dual citizenship, according to a report in The Sunday Times yesterday.
The Indian government in 2013 had responded to parliamentary questions, saying that Singapore being “a small and young nation” is concerned as it could dilute citizens’ commitment to the country. The issue of whether Singapore should one day consider dual citizenship has been raised from time to time in discussions about the future of Singapore citizenship.
Barry Desker of the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, a prominent advocate of dual citizenship, argued that it would help Singaporeans living abroad and foreigners in Singapore who are married to Singaporeans, according to a report in Hindustan Times.
Singapore “may be losing good people” when Singaporeans living abroad are forced to give up their citizenship, said Professor Tan Tai Yong of Yale-NUS College in the National University of Singapore.
Associate Professor Eugene Tan of Singapore Management University said that dual citizenship should not have a detrimental impact in terms of people’s sense of belonging to the country.
A strong opponent of dual citizenship, Professor Leo Suryadinata of the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute argued that citizenship is about political loyalty and it is doubtful if a person can be loyal to two countries.
“In an age of growing nationalism and the potential break-up of the European Union, global trends appear to be moving away from dual citizenship,” he observed.
Institute of Policy Studies researcher Debbie Soon said if Singapore were to one day be in conflict with another country, dual citizenship would be problematic because of the island state’s conscription system.
“But discussions on dual citizenship do not have to yield a binary yes-or-no answer,” argued Associate Professor Elaine Ho of the National University of Singapore.
There are in-between options that may enhance the links people have to Singapore, she noted.
One is the British example of an ancestry visa, which offers foreigners who can prove ancestral links to Britain an inside track to living and working there. A similar concept is the Overseas Citizenship of India.
According to Professor Tan Tai Yong the honorary citizenship, which Singapore grants to a very select group of foreigners who have made outstanding contributions to the country, is also an example of an in-between option.