ASEAN Beat

What’s in the Brunei Military Chief’s First Pakistan Voyage?

The interaction spotlighted some of the ongoing collaboration between the two sides.

Prashanth Parameswaran
What’s in the Brunei Military Chief’s First Pakistan Voyage?

Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who also holds the defense minister’s portfolio, points a gun during a visit to Singapore.

Credit: MINDEF Singapore

Last week, Brunei’s military chief paid a visit to Pakistan. Though it was only one of a series of ongoing interactions between the two sides, it was nonetheless notable in that it put the spotlight on a defense relationship that is otherwise not often in the headlines.

As I have noted before in these pages, Pakistan and Brunei have long enjoyed close bilateral ties, with their status as Muslim-majority nations playing a role in the forging of the relationship and in the official rhetoric of both sides to this day. That relationship extends to the defense realm as well. Defense ties were formally codified with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on defense cooperation back in 2004, and the relationship includes the usual components including visits, exchanges, and training, even though some of this often happens quite quietly and challenges have at times slowed the pace of ongoing collaboration.

Last week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the spotlight again with the visit of Brunei’s military chief to Pakistan. Major General Pengiran Dato Paduka Seri Aminan bin Pengiran Haji Mahmud, commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) conducted his official visit to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan from April 8 to April 10.

The visit itself comprised a series of interactions. In terms of meetings, the RBAF commander held courtesy calls with several officials including the president, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, and the chief of army staff of the Pakistan Army. Per Brunei’s defense ministry (MINDEF), the general focus of the meetings was on the state of bilateral defense ties, future opportunities for collaboration, and other issues of mutual interest.

There were also a series of other engagements as well. For instance, per MINDEF, the RBAF commander and the visiting Bruneian delegation also visited a set of Pakistani defense companies and manufacturers. No specifics were provided about which companies and manufacturers these included, or what the nature of the interactions were there and whether this may suggest any future opportunities for defense ties.

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Unsurprisingly, not much in the way of details were provided about some of the more private deliberations between the two countries, including further collaboration that they had agreed to moving forward. For that, we will likely need to see how other interactions take shape, including the Brunei-Pakistan Joint Defense Working Committee, where both sides take stock of wider collaboration and set out some activities for relations in the future. Nonetheless, how this component of ties evolves over time will continue to be important to watch within the perspective of the wider relationship.