FPDA 'now more vital than ever'

Grouping remains a force for good as one of few international structures in region: UK defence chief

British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon delivers his speech during the Third Plenary Session of the IISS 15th Asia Security Summit in Singapore, on June 4.
British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon delivers his speech during the Third Plenary Session of the IISS 15th Asia Security Summit in Singapore, on June 4. PHOTO: EPA

The Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA), the world's second-oldest military partnership after the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, is "more necessary than ever" to maintain stability in the region, one of its members has said.

The FPDA, which came into force in 1971, was initially conceived as a transitional pact to provide for the defence of Malaysia and Singapore until the then newly independent states could fend for themselves.

But 45 years on, the grouping, which is made up of Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Malaysia, remains a "force for good", British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon told The Sunday Times yesterday, adding that it is "more necessary than ever" as one of the few international structures in the region.


Agreeing, Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen noted in a joint statement of the grouping: "The FPDA plays a crucial role in enhancing regional cooperation, which is especially important now to meet the evolving security challenges in the region."


This is despite the growing prominence of other multilateral military groupings like the Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus, which has 18 member countries, including China and the United States.


Yesterday, four defence ministers from the grouping - Australia was represented by its High Commissioner to Singapore Philip Green - met on the sidelines of the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue security forum.


As a measure of the FPDA's continued strength, more than 2,000 personnel, four ships and around 50 aircraft from FPDA member-nations took part in its annual Bersama Shield exercise in April.

Troops are also gearing up for the upcoming, larger-scale, annual Bersama Lima drill in October this year.

In a joint statement yesterday, the FPDA defence ministers also expressed their countries' aspiration to provide the necessary resources for FPDA exercises to meet the evolving regional security challenges.

This includes inviting non-FPDA Asean countries to observe the grouping's training exercises, said the statement.

"This is to increase transparency and to alleviate any sensitivities towards FPDA activities in the region," it added.

The grouping also wants to send a strong message, said Mr Fallon, "that the FPDA is as committed to the stability and security of the region today as it was 45 years ago".

Separately, as part of its efforts to shift attention to the Asia-Pacific, Britain will also increase the number of troops across the region and put one of its two yet-to-be-completed aircraft carriers in this part of the world in the 2020s, Mr Fallon said.

Britain is also building relationships with its partners in this part of the world, with its officials meeting their Japanese and Australian counterparts.

British Chief of Defence Staff Nick Houghton has also met his Chinese counterpart in recent months, said Mr Fallon.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 05, 2016, with the headline 'FPDA 'now more vital than ever''. Print Edition | Subscribe