| Azlan Othman |
BRUNEI’S Deputy Minister of Defence, Dato Paduka Haji Mustappa bin Haji Sirat, said that defence has always been an important dimension in multilateralism. It reinforces the fundamental notion and principles of sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and the lofty objectives of maintaining peace, security and stability.
He said this in his keynote address on Defence Cooperation in the context of multilateral diplomacy in the region at the opening of Chiefs of Defence Conference (CHOD) 2014, held from November 3-6, at The Empire Hotel & Country Club.
The conference is being attended by high-level military leaders and representatives from various countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Dato Haji Mustappa observed that through history, countries are presented with a range of policy options for multilateralism in defence diplomacy, from practical cooperation of building friendships, of training and military exercises, into forming defence arrangements such as the Five Power Defence Arrangement, to advocating military alliances such as NATO and the Warsaw pact, and to embracing common defence policies and common security by groups of countries.
The Deputy Minister also stated that Asean has been at the forefront of multilateralism and has long recognised the importance of defence cooperation in addressing Asean’s security challenges.
“The convening of the Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Kuala Lumpur in 2005, was an important milestone, but only came 40 years after Asean was formed. The journey to reaching the destination, of building trust and confidence, however, was long and intricate and perhaps a bit tricky,” he said.
The Deputy Minister said the challenge then was to build comfort level, mutual trust and confidence and personal friendships. “Dialogue and consensus remain the main thrust of Asean defence diplomacy while maintaining pace and comfort level as a measure to success.”
Today, Asean relations have become more valuable as defence cooperation will be cemented with the formation of the Asean Charter and creation of the Asean Political and Security Community. Asean defence diplomacy was described as those progressing under the Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting, the Asean Chiefs of Defence Forces Informal Meeting, the ARF Defence Officials’ Dialogue and all other related meetings.
On future prospects of defence diplomacy, Dato Haji Mustappa saw cooperation in peace support activities or Military Operations Other Than War (MOOTW) as important, the value of which lies in its actual practice of preventing conflicts.
The Deputy Minister viewed that given the political will, the potential for defence cooperation remains vast where there has been ‘no lack of goodwill and determination to progress’. The essence of multilateralism is to clearly understand and appreciate differences and work towards establishing the close friendships that would be of value for developing meaningful cooperation in the future, he added.
Brunei Darussalam is represented at the conference by the Commander of Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF), Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Major General Dato Paduka Seri Mohd Tawih bin Abdullah.
Jointly organised by the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) and the RBAF, the conference is attended by military leaders and representatives from 26 countries – Australia, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, France, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam.
Themed ‘Multilateralism: Practical Cooperation towards Shared Responsibilities’, the four-day conference promotes open dialogue among militaries to enhance cooperation and better respond to common security challenges in more concrete and practical ways.
Initiated in 1998 by USPACOM, CHOD serves as an annual regional avenue that gives top military leaders the opportunity to come together, interact closely and discuss cooperative matters relating to defence and security. Its continued relevance is a strong reflection of its importance in shaping a more robust cooperation in addressing the multi-faceted security challenges in the Asia-Pacific.
This is the first time that Brunei Darussalam is co-hosting CHOD with the United States of America.