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Shangri-La Dialogue 2012 Opening Remarks
Dr John Chipman, Director-General and Chief Executive, The International Institute for Strategic Studies


Welcome to the 11th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue. Having initiated this experiment in defence diplomacy ten years ago with the first Dialogue in 2002, it is a great pleasure for me to see this hall so full tonight, populated by the defence establishments of all those countries with a stake in Asia-Pacific security. Each Shangri-La Dialogue seems to take place at a crucial time and inspires, even provokes, real-time diplomacy. I vividly remember at the first Dialogue in May 2002 the impassioned pleas made then for India and Pakistan to step back from what appeared to be the brink of a possible nuclear confrontation. That initial Shangri-La Dialogue served as ‘proof of concept’ and in subsequent years many initiatives have been taken at this summit, and numerous agreements signed here, helping to build defence relationships, confidence and trust. The very informality of the event has also allowed for a frankness of exchange not possible at other meetings of officials, while the presence of senior non-governmental experts has ensured that plenary and special session discussion has been held to a high standard.

This year we meet as the US emphasises a rebalancing of its defence, diplomatic and intellectual engagement with the Asia-Pacific, at a time when some have doubted whether it can sustain the defence budget required for the military engagement promised. Within the region, meanwhile, as the IISS Military Balance has noted, total Asian defence expenditure in 2012 will for the first time exceed total defence expenditure in Europe. How much of this is inspired by the need for modernisation, and how much is raised in the spirit of competition is an issue for debate. We convene as a greater number of Asian powers are asserting their individual interests in regional security and developing various initiatives for sub-regional co-operation. Understanding this more plural Asia-Pacific defence environment is a pressing priority. Protecting maritime freedoms throughout Asia is an international requirement in which all have an interest. We look forward to an appreciation of how different Asian powers can contribute to the provision of this global public good. New forms of warfare are now prominent, such as the development of cyber-munitions  and the increased reliance on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to achieve strategic effect. There are now new emerging risks to Asia-Pacific security that need the attention of strategists and policy-makers. These are some of the themes for our plenary debates.

This year, we have made more specific than ever before the themes of intergovernmental debate in our simultaneous special sessions. A sign of the unique value of the Shangri-La Dialogue is the way it addresses some of the hardest and most sensitive of regional defence issues.  This year we have full cabinet ministers, vice ministers, deputy ministers and senior parliamentarians addressing in special sessions delicate issues such as containing the South China Sea disputes, the armed forces and domestic emergencies, the specific regional risks in North east and South Asia and the particular challenge of submarine proliferation in the Asia-Pacific.

In general, we see in the public, but even more in the private agendas of the defence ministers attending this summit, a thickening up of the defence relations in the Asia-Pacific, demonstrating the desire for more varied defence consultation. At this Shangri-La Dialogue, many dozens of meetings are taking place bilaterally, trilaterally and indeed in other formations, between defence ministers and governments. Whether on the themes of maritime security or humanitarian and disaster relief, or the risks of nuclear proliferation a veritable Rubik’s cube of defence consultations here will help to shape future policy. Against that background, the IISS is keen to modernise the Shangri-La Dialogue process and to make it even more useful and central to the new demands of defence diplomacy in the Asia-Pacific.

Yesterday, the IISS signed a new memorandum of understanding with Singapore’s Ministry of Defence that is aimed at extending and enhancing the Shangri-La Dialogue. We now have arrangements in place that will enable the IISS to continue organising this Asia Security Summit in Singapore through to at least 2019. In strengthening the Shangri-La Dialogue process we are adding three new features.

First, the IISS will appoint two Shangri-La Asia Senior Fellows, analysts of world-class standing, at the IISS-Asia office here in Singapore, to conduct policy-relevant research on Asian Security and also to help the IISS to engage even more closely the defence establishments of the region.

Second, we will direct a publications effort to increase the independent and factual analysis that we produce on defence and security issues of interest to the Shangri-La Dialogue community.

Third, the IISS will organise an annual specialist workshop on Asia-Pacific defence and security that will constitute an inter-sessional activity for the Shangri-La Dialogue. This will involve some 60 individuals including senior military officers, defence ministry officials and non-governmental experts, drawn from the countries that normally participate in the Shangri-La Dialogue. We will hold it in the Straits Room of the Fullerton Hotel and this IISS Fullerton Forum, as it will be styled, will serve as a Sherpa meeting for the annual Shangri-La Dialogue Asia Security Summit. We intend to host the first such Fullerton Forum workshop in November 2012 to help prepare for the Shangri-La Dialogue of 31 May-2 June 2013. We expect that the full engagement of senior government officials and regional experts in the Fullerton Forum series will help us to frame the ideal agenda for the Shangri-La Dialogues, and involve officials early in the preparatory arrangements for their ministers’ attendance at the annual summit.

So the IISS Asia Security Summit, the Shangri-La Dialogue, moves from strength to strength. It does so, in keeping with the temperament of the times, organically. Indeed some years ago, the Indonesian defence minister, addressing this summit, argued that regional security should develop according to the laws of horticulture, rather than be engineered according to the diktats of architects.

Indonesia has in the last several years grown in international prominence, owing in large measure to the leadership of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. A former army general, first elected to the Presidency in 2004, his efforts have been focused on building the political and economic infrastructure for long term stability, growth and prosperity. Under his leadership, parliamentary democracy and accountable government have taken stronger hold; national cohesion has been strengthened by the end of the separatist war in Aceh, while tendencies towards secessionism have been largely undermined by administrative and fiscal devolution to local authorities.

Indonesia, as a result of the President’s leadership, has become not just an emerging, but a high growth market, attracting ever-increasing levels of foreign investment.  It is a leading player in the G20 group of countries, and has generated a principled foreign policy with an honourable emphasis on the human dimensions of security.

The perspective of this country and of its President, are of huge interest to the community of Asian countries, and those with a stake, which is everybody, in the future of the Asia-Pacific. President Yudhoyono has been a great champion of the economic dimension of strategy and of the primacy of diplomacy in building security confidence. The IISS is honoured to have him open the 11th Shangri-La Dialogue.

Kepáda Bapak Presíden Republik Indonesia yang kami hormati, kami persilákan untuk menyampáikan satu dua patáh kata.

Respected President of the Republic of Indonesia, we look forward to hearing your speech.

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