JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - With the rise of radicalism and terrorism in the region now seen as Asean's biggest security threat, Indonesia has proposed the creation of a "mini-Interpol" that would involve six countries in the region sharing intelligence through the "Our Eyes" initiative.
Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu mooted the plan during the 11th Asean Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) in the northern Philippine city of Clark on Monday (Oct 23).
He said that while he appreciated the success the Philippine government had in flushing the largely foreign fighters out of the city of Marawi, he saw a potential threat in the Islamic State in Iraq in Syria (ISIS) loyalists being able to retreat to neighbouring countries to rebuild bases. Multi-lateral connections between the six countries, he said, would keep the terrorists at bay.
"This preventive measures will provide us with extensive information about the existence of terrorist groups in Asean countries. Thus, we can destroy them before they get larger," Ryamizard told the forum. The six countries proposed are Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore and the Philippines.
After months of clashes between ISIS fighters and the Philippine military that destroyed large parts of Marawi, the Philippines Defence Secretary on Monday announced the southern Philippines has been liberated from terrorism.
Under Our Eyes, each participating country would create a new unit for sharing intelligence between them, while the person in charge from each country would be expected to maintain communications on a regular basis about the collection of information.
Multilateral intelligence sharing is not common in South-east Asia as most countries prefer to exchange such information bilaterally. Our Eyes was modelled on the post-World War Two "Five Eyes" intelligence alliance involving the United States, Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada that was established to monitor the then Soviet Union.
"However, Our Eyes would have nothing to do with politics. It is purely an initiative to fight the existence of terrorist groups and maintain peace in our region," Ryamizard said.
Several countries have expressed support for the initiative, saying it could play a significant role in maintaining the security of Asean countries.
Malaysian Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said he could see the importance of Our Eyes and would support it "all the way." "Mr Ryamizard, we are fully behind this initiative and we can see the sense of the arguments that you put forward in this forum. You have our total support," he said.
The Philippines, chair of Asean this year, is hosting the 11th ADMM, as well as the fourth Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting - Plus, which is to include eight Asean dialogue partners: Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia and the US. On Tuesday, the forum is expected to discuss broader issues, including the Korean Peninsula crisis and the South China Sea dispute.