LONDON • British Prime Minister David Cameron is expected to offer support to Indonesia and Malaysia in tackling threats posed by the growing influence of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group while on a visit to South-east Asia this week.
He heads to Indonesia on the first stop of his tour, his first trip overseas since he won the general election in May. He will also visit Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam.
The visit is primarily intended to boost Britain's trade ties with the region, but a BBC report yesterday said he would raise the issue of terrorism in meetings with President Joko Widodo of Indonesia and Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia during the four-day trip.
Mr Cameron is said to be "keen to explore" whether Britain can offer more practical counter-terrorism support to both countries, such as by disrupting foreign fighters, investigating potential terrorist plots and improving aviation security, the BBC reported.
The Prime Minister is also planning to learn from the two countries' efforts in tackling extremist ideology and encouraging tolerance, and explore whether Britain can benefit from their approach.
Speaking ahead of his departure for Indonesia, Mr Cameron said ISIS is "one of the biggest threats our world has faced".
"All of us face a threat from foreign fighters and from increasing radicalisation within our countries, and it's right that we look at what help we can provide to one another," he said. "Brutal terrorists" will be defeated only if countries unite against their common enemy.
About 500 people from Indonesia and 200 from Malaysia are estimated to have joined ISIS extremists in Iraq and Syria.
Last Monday, Mr Cameron set out a five-year strategy to tackle extremism in Britain, vowing to take on those responsible for radicalising young British Muslims in what he described as the "struggle of our generation". Countering extremist ideology, the process of radicalisation, the "drowning out" of moderate Muslim voices, and the "identity crisis" among some British-born Muslims were the major issues to be confronted, he said.
The main thrust of this week's visit, however, is trade. In an article for Britain's popular Daily Mail tabloid last Thursday, Mr Cameron made the case for increased trade with South-east Asia, noting that it is predicted to be the fourth-largest single market in the world by 2030. "In other words, the wind of economic change is blowing east - and not just to China and India," he wrote.
"For too long, Britain has seen the weather-vane pointing to these far-flung lands, but continued to rely on our European neighbours for trade and investment.
"We're still selling more to Hungary than to Indonesia - even though Indonesia's population is 25 times bigger.
"We still do more trade with Belgium than we do with Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam combined.
"With some of our neighbours' economies stagnating and markets further afield roaring ahead, we need to change our approach. We need to go to the ends of the earth to sell our wares," he wrote.