‘Inclusive’ Asean – Strong political will is key


Andrin Raj, Fz.com

THE recent Defence Services Asia (DSA) 2014 exhibition, from the 14-17 April, ended with the closing ceremony by Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein who addressed the international delegates and participants.

This year’s DSA which was held Putra World Trade Centre, attracted some 30,000 visitors.

The minister highlighted the need for closer military cooperation stating “this is where it’s important to cultivate good ties; on both the defense and diplomatic tracks with other nations”.

As Malaysia takes on the role of Asean’s chair in 2015, the minister promised a “strong inclusive” Asean. Whether Malaysia is able to succeed in doing this will have to be seen.

It has also been quoted by the Defence Ministry’s secretary general Dr Ismail Ahmad that “the DSA series aims to bring together defence and security personnel from around the world to tackle the industry’s most relevant concerns. It’s also a platform to enhance bilateral relationships and promote a higher level of commitment towards global defence”.

With regards to the above statements on international relations, defence cooperation and the “inclusive Asean”, one can only imagine where this leads too. Hishammuddin in his speech, also spoke about the tragic disappearance of the Malaysian airliner MH370.

“Inclusive” is the key word to the current search and rescue operations (SAR) for MH370.

The Southeast Asian nations have failed in most of its security platforms in addressing the key word “inclusive”. Hopefully Malaysia will be able to strive “inclusive” within the region in the coming years. The current SAR operations have also seen the reluctance of neighbouring states to share and divulge vital information that could have eased the operations.

The reason pertaining to this is related mostly to national security interest of these states. The Southeast Asian countries have a historical past that they need to move away from. The many security-related incidents by state and non-state actors have made this word “inclusive” seem to be “exclusive” in its cooperation. How do these countries make do with this? A strong political will is the key in achieving this.

In his speech, the defence minister also asked “why do countries commit vast amounts of resources to defence”? It’s only natural for all countries to protect their sovereignty from all domestic and international threats within their boundaries and this includes the core of the nation state, its people.

A glimpse from the movie “The Rock” and said by an actor who portrayed himself as a US navy seal officer; “My duty is to protect the nation from all domestic and foreign threats.”

No pondering on this, as it is the very basis of all security concerns of a nation state. The DSA also highlighted some forums on national security threats that included political violence and terrorism, cyber-security and non-traditional security threats. The Asean community will face an increased threat from cyber-security, terrorism and transnational crimes and it is now that “inclusive” should better be established.

In an interview by Asian Defence Journal (ADJ) with Malaysian Army chief Datuk Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor on the current security threats that are evolving in Malaysia, he said “the security threats faced by the Malaysian Army include trans-border crime such as human trafficking, drug smuggling and arms smuggling.

“In addition, the army has strengthened defences, especially on the east coast of Sabah by conducting enforcement activities to prevent piracy activities, smuggling and kidnapping in that region. Cooperation between other enforcement agencies and the police are given priority with the aim of protecting the national security and interest of Malaysia” he said.