Wednesday 28 January 2015

Ng Eng Hen: Deeper issues beyond the ISIS threat

By Jermyn Chow, Defence Correspondent, The Straits Times, 27 Jan 2015

EVEN when the threat of ISIS is stemmed, another rogue extremist religious group is likely to emerge and replace it, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen warned yesterday.

Apart from neutralising the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group, Dr Ng also called for a "deeper resolution" of the problem in which more weighty and sensitive issues have to be addressed.

He was speaking at the third Fullerton Forum: The Shangri-La Dialogue Sherpa Meeting - a three-day event organised by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). The discussion aims to lay the groundwork for top defence officials and military brass attending the Shangri-La Dialogue in June.

Dr Ng highlighted that religious extremism is a key theme that should be addressed there.

He said recent "lone-wolf" attacks in Sydney and France, inspired by extremist ideology, are "symptoms of a larger disturbance". "The central issue is the evolution of political Islam and its impact on regional and global stability," Dr Ng said in his speech to about 60 security and defence officials.

Dr Ng also cited former Pakistan ambassador to the United Nations Munir Akram, who said fundamental origins of Islamist extremism and militancy lie in the failure of Muslim states, and states with Muslim populations, to deliver jobs, justice and dignity to young people.

How moderate Muslim nations respond to the perceived injustices is a key component in the evolution of political Islam, Dr Ng added. "You will need moderate Muslim nations to show the way forward, to be able to chart a path in terms of economic progress as well as do it in a manner which is consistent with their religious beliefs."

Other topics that would feature in the June summit are the dynamics among China, the United States and Japan, and how countries deal with disasters and cyber security.

Also in focus is the unprecedented military modernisation and defence spending in Asia amid the ongoing territorial and maritime disputes in the region.

"The need for dialogue, de-escalatory mechanisms within a stable security architecture is clearly needed quickly," Dr Ng said.

He urged delegates to improve collaboration among countries through multilateral platforms like the Shangri-La Dialogue and Asean Defence Ministers' Meeting Plus grouping. "These practical cooperations build confidence and mutual understanding and help prevent incidents on the ground from spiralling out of control because of misunderstandings or miscalculations."

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