Transcript of the Remarks by Senior Minister of State, Ministry Of Defence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman at “Strat-Con: Discussing the Emerging Security Dynamics in the Indo-Pacific” Panel at the Raisina Dialogue 2018 Wednesday, 17 January 2018

30 Jan 2018

Fellow panellists, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am glad to join you today at the Third Raisina Dialogue. The topic for this session is particularly apt in today’s evolving regional landscape. I will focus my remarks on the role ASEAN can play in the emerging dynamics.

The region between the Indian and Pacific Oceans boasts the world’s three largest economies- US, China and Japan- seven of the world’s ten fastest growing markets and is expected to generate more than half of the world’s economic output in the coming years. We have two billion people connected to the global economy, and hundreds of millions raised from abject poverty to a rising middle class. 

Common threats to regional security are also becoming more pervasive, and will require concerted and coordinated trans-national efforts to manage. A major concern is continued tensions in the Korean Peninsula. Our hope is for the early resumption of meaningful dialogue among the main stakeholders, such as the recent inter-Korea dialogue. Other threats to regional security have increasingly come from non-state actors in the form of terrorism, violent extremism and cybercrime. From hardened fighters and extremists that returned from Iraq and Syria, to the malicious WannaCry ransomware that infected computers worldwide, many security issues now transcend national boundaries. No single country can solve them alone and collective effort will be needed to tackle these challenges. 

We have also seen a wave of populist nationalism developing across the globe.  Such sentiments, fuelled in part by deep-seated frustration over wage stagnation and the influx of immigrants, have been particularly salient in shaping voting patterns in the West and raising questions about the benefits of free trade.  This is a trend that countries in our part of the world may also have to face one day.  Amid these strains of nationalist sentiments, a key challenge for governments of today and tomorrow will be to find ways to strengthen collaboration for win-win outcomes.

I should also add that strong and stable relations amongst the major powers is a prerequisite for a peaceful and prosperous Indo Pacific region. And the US-China relations is one of the most important bilateral relationships in the world. The relationship is complex, and has significant spillover effects on the global community.  It is important both sides recognise the fundamental importance of pursuing mutually beneficial cooperation with each other, and ensure that competition does not lead to conflict.

At the heart of this landscape, Southeast Asia serves as the gateway between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific. This makes Southeast Asia and ASEAN not only crucial in the Indo-Pacific, but also central to the regional architecture.

ASEAN Member States are acutely aware that we are small countries.  Only when we come together as a regional bloc of ten countries do we have size and weight to compete and to be heard. As a regional group, we have over the decades served as an important and neutral platform for other powers to engage one another constructively.

The ASEAN-led mechanisms provide regional countries with a normative framework for cooperation and confidence-building. These platforms allow our officials to meet regularly to exchange ideas, strengthen ties and build their capacities in many areas such as maritime security, counter-terrorism and preventive diplomacy, just to name a few. These interactions produce a resilient network of regional cooperation mechanisms. They also afford greater manoeuvring space for small and big countries alike. The overarching aim is to have a balanced, open and inclusive regional architecture where every player with a legitimate interest in the region has a seat at the table to talk things through.

Singapore has assumed the Chairmanship of ASEAN this year. As Chair, Singapore will continue to deepen cooperation at ASEAN-led fora and build stronger relations with our external partners, centred on the themes of “resilience” and “innovation”.  We aim to build collective resilience within ASEAN, including economic, social, and financial resilience, and importantly, security resilience.  With innovation, we will press on with regional economic integration and enhance regional connectivity.

To sum up, it is clear that the region brims with immense potential, provided we navigate the challenges well. The thought I would like to leave is that our region can only realise its full potential if we encourage constructive engagement and stable relations amongst major players. One of the key ways is to strengthen ASEAN as a credible and united organisation, and continue to commit to economic integration towards mutually beneficial cooperation for all.


  I will stop here but will be happy elaborate further on any point later during the panel discussion. Thank you.


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