KUALA LUMPUR: ASEAN Ministers of Defence have to focus on three pertinent points namely the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the changing geopolitical security landscape and new partnerships between powerful and influential countries.
Senior Minister of Defence, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said, as Defence Ministers of ASEAN everyone should show to the world that as a regional bloc of 10 nations, the militaries can work closely together through military to-military cooperation, especially through the respective Medical Corps.
“Our militaries have played key roles in COVID management in our respective countries; therefore they can share and learn from each other what they have experienced over the past two years and look ahead for the future in terms of new developments in testing, vaccines and treatments.
“The economy, regionally and globally has been hit hard by disruptions to the supply chain and decrease in overall spending. How can we as Defence Ministers play a role to reverse the losses?
“This is where our defence industries can collaborate and enhance intra-regional trade in terms of assets and expertise. For example, our defence industries can look beyond our borders to other markets within ASEAN, contributing to the region’s economic recovery in a more holistic manner,” Hishammuddin said in his intervention at the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Retreat hosted by Brunei Darussalam today (10th Nov.).
Hishammuddin added, terrorist organisations are now turning to the internet to spread their propaganda to recruit more followers and create self-radicalised actors that would carry out their evil deeds.
The Senior Minister said, combined with the acceleration of a global digital transformation arising from the ongoing pandemic – this increases the risk of cyber attacks on strategic cyber infrastructures. With today’s interconnected world, any individual could unleash destruction swiftly with the press of a button.
“The cyberspace has become a new domain to defence establishments. Acknowledging that this situation is real and presents a genuine danger, not only to a single nation but the whole region, we must act together to improve our cyber and electromagnetic defence capabilities,” he said.
Hishammuddin added, Malaysia appreciates the ADMM’s agreement to establish the ASEAN Cyber Defence Network (ACDN) that will link ASEAN Member States’ cyber defence operation centres to improve cooperation, interoperability and confidence in the cyber domain.
“The ACDN will provide the platform for these centres to exchange information, expertise and experience, while at the same time working closely with the ADMM Cybersecurity and Information Centre of Excellence (ACICE) to ensure synergy in cyber security,” Hishammuddin said.
The changing geopolitical landscape said Hishammuddin also prompts us to look closer to home, or simply put – in our very own backyards.
“In my conversations with Secretary Delfin of the Philippines and Prabowo of Indonesia recently, we agreed that there is a need to re-ignite the Trilateral Cooperative Arrangement at the Ministerial Level for the safety and security of the Sulu and Sulawesi Seas,” he said.
The Senior Minister stressed that the growing intensity of strategic rivalry in the South China Sea is creating a challenging security landscape that immensely affects the region. Security issues in the region could lead to miscalculations and possible conflicts if they are not addressed carefully.
Hishammuddin also stressed that new partnerships between powerful and influential countries are very important. New security arrangements such as AUKUS have been announced, alongside previous security arrangements such as the QUAD being re-established – both with a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.
“My fellow Ministers, united we stand, divided we fall – ASEAN must remain a strategic player as a bloc in the ever-changing geopolitical landscape. This can only be achieved when we continue to communicate and work as a united bloc.
“The reality is that as small nations, we must coalesce with those who share similar values that would be able to defend and promote ASEAN Centrality, the region’s interests with external parties. It is now more important than ever for ASEAN to be united in these trying times.
“Despite the challenges, ASEAN has remained one of the most successful regional cooperation in the world, but new developments require us to work even harder, as the opportunities to split us continue to grow,” stressed Hishammuddin.-Malaysia World News