Singapore is working closely with Indonesia to get more support at an Asean meeting later this month for the building of a regional counter-terrorism intelligence-sharing network, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen disclosed yesterday.
The proposed platform comes amid the continuing terror threat facing Singapore, Dr Ng said.
"We will be tabling the proposal in the upcoming Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) in two weeks' time. And we hope to get support for this important initiative that will combine intelligence resources from Asean countries and beyond to deal with this pressing problem," he said.
Dr Ng was speaking yesterday at the annual Total Defence Awards dinner at the Raffles City Convention Centre.
He, however, did not name the proposed platform which is called Our Eyes Initiative.
Launched in January this year, it is an arrangement to ease the sharing of strategic intelligence on terrorism among six Asean countries: Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines.
The arrangement comes after the siege of Marawi city by ISIS-linked militants in the Philippines last year.
Unfortunately, the threat of terrorism will be a long-term one - all terrorism experts think so. In fact, even as ISIS is decimated in the Middle East, the threat here is expected to grow, as foreign fighters return to wage jihadist battles in our region.
DEFENCE MINISTER NG ENG HEN
Dr Ng said Indonesia is a key player in counter-terrorism in the region, having experienced the "horrendous" Bali attacks that killed hundreds of civilians in 2002.
Yesterday, he met Indonesian Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu on the sidelines of the 2018 South-east Asia Counter-Terrorism Symposium, organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), at the Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel. They discussed the agenda for the upcoming ADMM and ADMM-Plus, including the plans to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation through Indonesia's Our Eyes Initiative, said the Defence Ministry yesterday.
RSIS international relations professor Tan See Seng said getting all 10 Asean members to cooperate could prove challenging, given the region's trust deficit and potentially conflicting threat perceptions.
"Where going beyond Asean is concerned, countries like Australia and the United States have played important roles since the 2002 Bali attacks in exchanging information and intelligence with Asean states. It therefore makes good sense to include the Plus countries, whose security collaborations with the Asean members pre-date the ADMM-Plus."
Dr Ng said terrorism is one threat that today's generation faces - first fuelled by Al-Qaeda globally and Jemaah Islamiah regionally, then by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and its affiliates in the region.
He cited the Surabaya bomb attacks in May this year - where two terrorists co-opted their families, including their young children, into suicide bombing missions - as a stark reminder that the threat is "real, present and growing".
"Unfortunately, the threat of terrorism will be a long-term one - all terrorism experts think so. In fact, even as ISIS is decimated in the Middle East, the threat here is expected to grow, as foreign fighters return to wage jihadist battles in our region," he added.
This is why Singapore is working closely with Indonesia on the intelligence-sharing platform, as it "must never let up, and in fact must do more".