This week, Singapore and Brunei held the latest iteration of their defense dialogue. The holding of the interaction highlighted the continuing efforts by both Southeast Asian states to develop the security aspect of their broader and longstanding relationship.
As I have noted previously in these pages, Singapore and Brunei have a close defense relationship as part of their broader bilateral relationship. This is reflected not just in traditional aspects like exchanges, visits, and exercises, but also the fact that Brunei has benefited from the expertise of the Singapore Armed Forces, and Singapore’s military holds training in Brunei.
One of the mechanisms in the defense relationship is the defense policy dialogue. The dialogue, which currently features the permanent secretaries of both defense ministries, was initiated in 2009 and is intended to both review existing defense collaboration and also explore new potential areas as well. The last iteration of this was held in late 2017, which was right before Singapore was set to hold the annually rotating chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and ahead of several defense personnel changes.
This week, the defense aspect of the relationship was in the headlines with the holding of the latest iteration of the dialogue. The 7th Singapore-Brunei Defense Policy Dialogue took place on June 26, and it was held at the Rizqun International Hotel in Brunei.
The dialogue was co-chaired by the permanent secretary of the Brunei defense ministry, Dato Seri Pahlawan Shahril Anwar bin Haji Ma’awiah, who was representing Brunei at this dialogue for the first time in this capacity, and his Singapore counterpart, Chan Yeng Kit, who had also been present at the previous iteration of the dialogue. Both of them led delegations that comprised of a mix of military and civilian officials from the two countries as well.
Per Brunei’s defense ministry (MINDEF), during the dialogue, both sides reaffirmed the longstanding bilateral defense ties between them, discussed ways to further enhance collaboration, and also exchanged views on regional and security issues of mutual interest. No further details were publicly disclosed about the private deliberations.
Apart from the defense dialogue, Chan’s visit to Brunei also provided the opportunity for other defense-related interactions as well. He met with a range of Brunei officials, including the second minister for defense (the defense minister portfolio in Brunei is still held by the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah). And per MINDEF, he was also able to tour the Royal Brunei Air Force (RBAF) Defense Academy in Kampong Tanah Jambu.