The German political foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and RSIS jointly hosted a ministerial forum titled “The Indo-Pacific: Geostrategic Challenges and Opportunities for Germany and Singapore” on 13 November 2020. During the forum, German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer exchanged views with her Singaporean counterpart Dr Ng Eng Hen on international security, in particular, the challenges and opportunities for cooperation between their countries in the Indo-Pacific region. The virtual forum had 200 participants on Zoom and had more than 1,000 views on Facebook and Twitter, along with positive feedback from Germany, the Southeast Asian countries and Singapore.
Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer emphasised that the Indo-Pacific was of crucial importance to Germany despite the geographical distance, and that Berlin’s Indo-Pacific guidelines had been the outcome of this significance. Remarking that the Indo-Pacific would shape the future of the world, she noted that the geopolitical centre of gravity was shifting eastwards from the Atlantic towards the Indo-Pacific, and that the guidelines were drawn up as a basis of cooperation in all realms, including economics and security, with countries in that region. She affirmed that ideals such as human rights, democratic values, and international law should be respected in the conduct of international relations, stressing that issues such as climate change could be adequately tackled with a transnational approach.
On his part, Dr Ng noted that international cooperation and multilateralism have largely benefitted the world since the Second World War. However, international organisations needed to be updated to meet current and future challenges. The fundamentals of post-war order had weakened due to recent shifts in American foreign policy and the COVID-19 outbreak. However, Dr Ng cautioned against throwing the baby out with the bathwater when adapting to new circumstances: while Globalisation 1.0 was not perfect, a regression to parochial policies would result again in blocs and misaligned interests as seen in the previous world wars. He urged the multilateral organisations to establish more robust global norms, and more equitable and effective applications of the international rule of law to address current inadequacies. He was heartened that Germany continues to be a proponent of the multilateral order, citing its active involvement in international bodies such as the World Bank and the United Nations.