Australia and Singapore have a newly agreed comprehensive strategic partnership, but how and to what extent can relations with Singapore advance Australia’s strategic objectives, as highlighted in the 2016 Defence White Paper?
In advance of his address at the Northern Australia Defence Summit, Dr. Euan Graham of the Lowy Institute of International Policy spoke with Informa and touched on some of his own theoretical and practical insights regarding the arrangement.
“Many nations these days refer to their relationship as ‘strategic’, when in fact there is little being done practically to support bilateral Defence capability”, he says. “But this is certainly not the case with Australia-Singapore relations.”
Dr. Euan Graham, Director International Security, The Lowy Institute of International Policy, is due to speak at ADM’s Northern Australia Defence Summit later this month in Darwin.
He argues that Singapore is in fact a linchpin state, indispensable to Australia’s interest in enhanced Defence engagement with Southeast Asia as a whole. Singapore also gains strategic depth out of the arrangement to train its forces in Northern Australia.
To demonstrate his point, he refers to the long track record of strategic cooperation with Singapore, to growing instability in Australia’s wider region, including the South China Sea; and believes that Singapore’s new found self-reliance and mutual interest as a coalition provider in Iraq and Syria make them a strong and reliable partner for Australia. Forging stable, long-term partnerships has been a challenge for Canberra in Southeast Asia.
“It is generally less well known that Singapore is the most powerful Defence force in SE Asia” he says. “When the UK pulled its forces back, they created a vacuum, which Singapore had to fill independently (although Australian forces stayed on for some years afterwards). They are responsible for their own security and do not depend on a formal ally”.
Dr. Graham also predicts substantial economic benefit and enhanced interoperability from the partnership arrangement, including the possibility of joint production and maintenance of Defence equipment. “Other countries in SE Asia purchase equipment from China or Russia. When using different equipment, it is harder for Forces to train together and you lose ‘economy of scale.”
Dr Graham will reveal full details of his critical analysis of the Australia-Singapore comprehensive strategic partnership and how they are to affect White Paper objectives at the Northern Australia Defence Summit later this month in Darwin.