The final two of five plenary sessions brought The Shangri-La Dialogue 2012 to a close on the 3rd of June, after three days of open discourse and private bilateral/multilateral meetings.
Opening the fourth plenary session (New Forms Of Warfare: Cyber, UAVs And Emerging Threats), were Dato’ Seri Dr Ahman Zahid Hamidi, Minister of Defence for Malaysia, Peter Gordon MacKay, Minister of National Defence for Canada and Nick Harvey, Minister of State for the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom (UK).
The ministers discussed the characteristics of cyberspace and cyber-warfare at length as well as the merits of and threats to inter-state cooperation on this front.
It was generally agreed that the information wave had turned the world into a global village with extensive digital connectivity and that conventional classification of warfare, terrorism and organised crime could no longer adequately construe the complex nature of modern conflict .
Indeed, the cyber age has not only affected the manner in which nations behave but also regular everyday interaction between individuals.
As digital networks expand their coverage over larger areas and provide access to more diverse communities and groups, it leaves the connected parties vulnerable to attacks by entities with flagitious agendas, be it state or non-state actors.
A major cyber-attack on any network coadunating its members would have serious implications leading towards destabilisation, particularly in the face of non-traditional threats.
Three lessons that could be gleaned from the speeches delivered were:-
1. In spite of the ever-growing influence of non-state actors there is still a critical need in today’s world for strong state-led governance with all the instruments that state power can engage – from diplomacy, to trade, to military force.
2. To better combat the underlying causes of global conflict, it is essential for countries to explore and implement broader initiatives that can draw on the strengths and resilience that exist within society.
3. Well-coordinated multilateralism is critical to global security and stability in the 21st century.
In the fifth and final plenary session of the Summit (Emerging Risks to Global and Asia-Pacific Security), Dr Jonathan Coleman, Minister of Defence for New Zealand, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister of Defence for France, and Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister of Defence for Singapore shared their insight on a number of issues.
Geopolitical shifts and emerging transnational global threats, fostering an inclusive architecture for partnership, and fortifying inter-state relationships proved to be important focal areas of all three speeches.
The ministers observed that the security challenges of the 21st century were disparate to those of the last; that the globalisation of the world’s economies, integration of exchange flows and technology transfers, movements of people between regions had confronted the world with threats.
Of particular concern were the quandaries of maritime security and piracy, climate change, food and water security, illegal trafficking of drugs and humans, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and cyber and satellite security as well as the challenge of predicting how new risks might emerge and how they might best be mitigated.
One way this was said could be achieved was through the establishment and maintenance of bilateral and multilateral defence and security links, a necessary investment for the sustenance of prosperity and growth within the region and international community.
It was noted that the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the East Asia Summit (EAS), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) were instrumental in providing a framework for accommodating the diverse interests of the states of the region, building confidence between defence forces, and encouraging openness.
Dr Ng spoke of augmenting mutual trust through cooperation and hailed joint exercises in the areas of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, military medicine, maritime security and counter-terrorism as a bottom-up approach to enhance military-to-military relationships.
He stated that Asia was making progress in this area, citing the EAS as an example – relations between the states of the region were strengthened last year when the United States and Russia formally participated in the forum for the first time.
Coleman and Le Drian supported Ng’s rhetoric by affirming their respective countries’ commitment to the Asia Pacific region – Coleman highlighted the defence and security links New Zealand had established with all the countries present at the Dialogue and Le Drian promised that France would follow the European Union (EU)’s lead and increase its investment in the Asia-Pacific region.
Photo courtesy of the Ministry of Defence, Singapore.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies is a world-leading authority on global security, political risk and military conflict. The IISS was founded in the UK in 1958 with a focus on nuclear deterrence and arms control. Today, it is also renowned for its annual Military Balance assessment of countries’ armed forces and for its high-powered security summits, including the Shangri-La Dialogue.