MiDAS Commentaries

DEFENCE WHITE PAPER: HOW REGIONAL GEO-POLITICS PLAYS IT’S ROLES

 

Prepared by: Nor Aini binti Mohd Nordin

Contemporary Security Assistant Director, MiDAS

Source : Chief Defence Forces Opening Remarks, Perwira Dialogue I, 12 June 2019

 

            This year Malaysia has taken a step forward in developing its first ever Defence White Paper with holding a series of dialogue that include participations from within and outside of the defence sphere. In order to shape a comprehensive defence white paper it is essential for people within the defence sector to hear thoughts from experts on the nature as well as the dynamics of the evolving relationship between major powers as well as how those dynamics can assist in shaping Malaysia future defence policy, planning and posture in the immediate future. Over the years it has been well documented that Malaysia already have a defence policy papers that are can be openly access by the public.

 

            However this will be the first time that the member of public are invited to write in to give their views, concerns as well as contribute to the development of a more inclusive and comprehensive defence strategy for Malaysia. According to articles and news as a fundamental expression of national policy, the defence white paper will only be published after extensive consultation with relevant government agencies and the people.  The paper being a key policy document that spells out the government’s vision for national security and defence, should contain a broad strategic policy framework for defence planning within a specified time frame. The paper can further be used as a negotiation and justification document for budget allocation purposes for the Ministry of Defence and other ministries to develop appropriate capabilities, skills, strategies and doctrines for national security. Therefore, the proposed white paper must be a joint and coordinated national effort.

 

            One primary challenge to the paper development is to broadly examine on the possible ramifications or changes in the new geopolitical security architecture arising from the ongoing tensions between the US and China to regional economic, security and political order in the region. The current trade “war”/friction between the world’s two leading economies are a manifestation of the larger aspects of political tensions between China and US. Political tensions between the US and China in the new geopolitical order will have a significant impact on regional security.

 

            In Clausewitzian term, the trade “war” is the extension of politics by other means. India has fought a war with China in 1962 and not likely to be supportive of China in the current conflict with the US. ” When talking of big power politics, it is always best to be mindful of the adage that big powers are like elephants. The current trade tensions are likely to affect the entire world. The trade war is expected to last a few years more and may trigger the unwanted currency war. The current trade “war”/friction between the world’s two leading economies are a manifestation of the larger aspects of political tensions between China and US. Neo-conservatives like John Bolton, Stephen Bennon, John Mearsheimer, among others, believe the war with China is inevitable. We now know roughly the pecking order in the region and the resistance from some quarters to the changing of the guards. Whether the region become more secure or less secure will depend, to a large extent, on how they behave towards each other? China is not likely to succumb to “the Thucydides Trap” however intimidating some of the US policy gestures are. Whether their current “still benign” relationship develops into a malignant situation is a question only time can tell?

 

            The absence of international law and rules in cyberspace, especially accommodating the inherent right of self-defence and the law of state responsibility, plus acceptable countermeasures can be fatal to the sovereignty of nation states. The extent to which Russia can exert influence in Asia Pacific region will be a function of geopolitics-its relations with China and the US. Some view the current cooperation between Russia and China in the economic and military spheres as fragile. Evidently, the US is not alarmed by the relationship between Russia and China.

 

            Driven mainly by national security interests, ideology, geopolitics and geography, the ASEAN states are making calculated moves to position themselves. For examples, who are responsible for the security in the digital ecosystem which includes the capability to actively protect the critical national information infrastructure, critical to the survivability of the nation? How should states like Malaysia, for example, position itself amidst the new regional geopolitical order?

 

            Due to the uncertain geopolitical dynamics and uncertainty in the region, states are hedging their future. The region needs these rules to avoid cyber-attacks on critical national assets. It can be observe that States in Southeast Asia are also adjusting their positions in the new geopolitical dynamics. The adage that “there are no permanent foes or permanent friends in international politics” remains valid. All these question posed must be considered in the development of Malaysia’s Defence White Paper.