Think Tank (4/2022)
Track II Network of ASEAN Defence and Security Institutions (NADI) Workshop.
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Strengthening Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in the Region
21 Jul 2022

The S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) virtually hosted the Track II Network of ASEAN Defence and Security Institutions (NADI) Workshop on “Strengthening Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) in the Region” from 20 to 21 July 2022. Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Executive Deputy Chairman, RSIS, and Chairman of the NADI Workshop, highlighted that the theme of the workshop was timely, given the presence of hotspots in the region that could develop into more serious conflict if not managed carefully. He stressed the importance of all parties adhering to existing CBMs, and for the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) to chart the way forward. He added that while discussions would have to take place at the ADMM-Plus level, it would be crucial for the ADMM to take the lead. He also indicated that NADI has a major role to play in facilitating this process.

NADI delegates shared their respective country’s approaches towards regional CBMs and their assessments of existing ones. They also offered suggestions to strengthen confidence building among the defence establishments of ASEAN Member States, including exploring the possibility of new CBMs or utilising cross-sectoral synergies among different CBMs. The NADI delegates were generally positive about the usefulness of CBMs, such as the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, the Guidelines for Air Military Encounters, the Guidelines for Maritime Interaction, and the ASEAN Direct Communications Infrastructure.

However, several delegates highlighted the need for strengthened cooperation to fully exploit the potential of existing CBMs. The delegates also noted that more studies could be made on unmanned systems given their recent technological development and their impact on regional security. Views were also expressed on the importance of ensuring that ASEAN CBMs were aligned to the concerns and priorities of AMS. The workshop agreed that CBMs in ASEAN should be premised on trust, transparency, and togetherness (3 Ts), as well as technology.

The value of cooperation and dialogue between the ADMM, ADMM-Plus, ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and ASEAN Regional Forum tracks was also highlighted. This was related to the broader point that a whole-of-government approach should be taken towards confidence building. Such an approach would be useful in addressing emerging non-traditional security issues which may require the support of both the defence and military agencies. In this context, cross-sectoral collaboration and consolidation within ASEAN could help facilitate discussions about new CBMs and the improvement of existing CBMs.

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