Minilateralism and the Future Regional Security Architecture
By Sarah Teo
Given the rise in minilateral initiatives across the Indo-Pacific region, RSIS’ Regional Security Architecture Programme convened a workshop on 15 November 2018 to examine its implications on the regional security architecture. About 30 experts from the academic and think tank communities around the region participated in the workshop that was held at the Marina Mandarin Singapore.
While the idea of minilateralism in the region is not new, in recent times the emergence of initiatives such as the Quad 2.0 and Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism, as well as the revitalisation of minilateral forums in the Indian Ocean region such as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), has prompted serious concern about their potential impact on the existing regional security architecture.
Since the end of the Cold War, the regional security architecture has been premised on the longstanding pillars of bilateral US “hub-and-spoke” alliances and ASEAN-centric multilateralism. On the one hand, this upsurge in minilateralism—particularly that centred on a great or rising power—alongside factors such as China’s growing power and influence, the ensuing Sino-US rivalry for regional leadership, and the apparent weakening of ASEAN unity, suggest that the regional security architecture could come under increasing pressure emanating from major power politics. On the other hand, minilateral initiatives could be useful for managing or resolving specific issues within the region.
The workshop began with a conceptual session that examined the definition and scope of minilateralism in the region. This was followed by a discussion of three cases, specifically the Quad, the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation mechanism, and the Indian Ocean regional fora. The day’s proceedings concluded with a session on how these platforms could affect the ASEAN-centric security architecture in the region.
Last updated on 23/01/2019