De­fence Co­op­er­a­tion with Malaysia

In­dia has been work­ing on its ‘Look East Pol­icy’ since 1992 and as part of such a pol­icy it has been en­hanc­ing its de­fence ties with the ASEAN mem­bers. Malaysia is seen as a key mem­ber of the ASEAN and a very sig­nif­i­cant en­abler and con­trib­u­tor to the reg

SP's LandForces - - FRONT PAGE - Bri­gadier (Retd) Vinod Anand

In­dia has been work­ing on its ‘Look East Pol­icy’ since 1992 and as part of such a pol­icy it has been en­hanc­ing its de­fence ties with the ASEAN mem­bers

GEOSTRATE­GIC LO­CA­TION OF MALAYSIA and the emerg­ing se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment in Asia in gen­eral and South East Asia in par­tic­u­lar makes it im­per­a­tive for both New Delhi and Kuala Lumpur to strengthen their mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial de­fence and se­cu­rity ties. Malaysia is a lit­toral state of the Malacca Strait that links the In­dian and Pa­cific Oceans and more nar­rowly the Bay of Ben­gal to South China Sea. The strate­gic sig­nif­i­cance of Malacca Strait for pas­sage of ships both civil and mil­i­tary is also well known. Malaysia’s se­cu­rity dilem­mas are fur­ther com­pli­cated by sep­a­ra­tion of Malaya penin­sula and its ter­ri­to­ries of Sabah and Sarawak by South China Sea which re­quires it to pay par­tic­u­lar at­ten­tion to se­cu­rity of air and sea lines of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Fur­ther, Malaysia has a grow­ing econ­omy with large vol­umes of trade both with In­dia and China be­sides many other na­tions which adds to its strate­gic sig­nif­i­cance. There­fore, co­op­er­a­tive de­fence and se­cu­rity re­la­tion­ships are an in­escapable need for Malaysia.

Sim­i­larly, In­dia’s de­fence re­la­tion­ship with Malaysia is mo­ti­vated by se­cur­ing its growth and de­vel­op­ment through pro­mot­ing a peace­ful and sta­ble en­vi­ron­ment in the re­gion in par­tic­u­lar and at the global level in gen­eral. In­dia has been work­ing on its ‘Look East Pol­icy’ since 1992 and as part of such a pol­icy it has been en­hanc­ing its de­fence ties with the ASEAN mem­bers. Malaysia is seen as a key mem­ber of the ASEAN and a very sig­nif­i­cant en­abler and con­trib­u­tor to the re­gional se­cu­rity. Indo-Malaysian de­fence and se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion is, thus, a sub­set of a larger re­gional ef­fort.

Look­ing back, In­dian and Malaysian de­fence forces have a shared her­itage as both na­tions’ armed forces have evolved from Bri­tish mil­i­tary. Dur­ing the Bri­tish colo­nial era Madras na­tive In­fantry troops served in Sin­ga­pore, Malacca and Pe­nang in the 19th century. Bri­tish In­dian Army con­sist­ing of In­dian troops and for­ma­tions also con­tested the Ja­panese of­fen­sive in Malaya and Sin­ga­pore in World War II. Some of the of­fi­cers of fed­er­a­tion of Malay states were trained in the In­dian Mil­i­tary Academy, Dehradun. A num­ber of such of­fi­cers have risen to very high po­si­tions in the po­lit­i­cal, civil and mil­i­tary spheres. In 2007, Cap­tain Tunku Ismail Ibrahim, the grand­son of the Sul­tan of Jo­hor state, led a unit of the In­dian Army at the Repub­lic Day in New Delhi in 2007.

Bri­tish forces also prac­tised their coun­terin­sur­gency con­cepts and pre­cepts against the in­sur­gency in Malaya; these con­cepts with some mod­i­fi­ca­tions were used by the In­dian armed forces in the North­east in the early stages of in­sur­gency there.

In re­cent times the Indo-Malaysian de­fence re­la­tion­ship gained mo­men­tum af­ter sign­ing of a me­moran­dum of un­der­stad­ing (MoU) on De­fence Co­op­er­a­tion be­tween the two na­tions in 1993. Ear­lier, there were some con­straints in nur­tur­ing the de­fence re­la­tion­ship due to Cold War equa­tions. This MoU pro­vides the ba­sic frame­work based on which the re­la­tion­ship was to be pro­gressed. Be­sides con­sul­ta­tions on de­fence and se­cu­rity is­sues and sup­ply of de­fence equip­ment the MoU pro­vides for joint ven­tures, joint de­vel­op­ment projects, pro­cure­ment, lo­gis­tics, main­te­nance sup­port, train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion. En­gage­ment be­tween staff of the ser­vices and of­fi­cials at pol­icy-mak­ing level, ex­changes in strate­gic and se­cu­rity stud­ies as­sess­ments and ex­pe­ri­ences, co­op­er­a­tion in ar­eas of counter-ter­ror­ism, mar­itime se­cu­rity, dis­as­ter man­age­ment and peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions are an im­por­tant part of the MoU. The over­all ob­jec­tive was to pro­mote re­gional and global se­cu­rity and work also with the mul­ti­lat­eral re­gional frame­works in or­der to achieve such goals.

There is a mech­a­nism of Malaysia-In­dia De­fence Co­op­er­a­tion Com­mit­tee (MID­COM) meet­ing which is jointly chaired by the two De­fence Sec­re­taries. The Com­mit­tee meets once a year to re­view the progress in de­fence co­op­er­a­tion.The last MID­COM meet­ing was held at New Delhi in June 2013. Di­a­logue be­tween the three ser­vices of both the armed forces takes place on an­nual ba­sis. The third Army-to-Army Staff talks were held at Kuala Lumpur in De­cem­ber 2012; the fifth Air-to-Air Staff talks at New Delhi in De­cem­ber 2012; and the fifth Navy-to-Navy talks were held at New Delhi in June 2013.

Malaysian of­fi­cers reg­u­larly at­tend the De­fence Ser­vices Staff Col­lege (DSSC) Course, the Na­tional De­fence Col­lege (NDC) Course and sev­eral other spe­cialised cour­ses in In­dia. In­dian of­fi­cers reg­u­larly at­tend the Malaysian Com­mand and Staff Course as well as other spe­cialised cour­ses.

In re­cent years, there has been an in­crease in fre­quency of po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­er­ship’s vis­its to each other’s coun­tries in or­der to ex­pand the na­ture of de­fence co­op­er­a­tion. For in­stance, last year in Novem­ber Gen­eral Tan Sri Dato Sri Rodzali Bin Daud, Chief of the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), along with a high-pow­ered del­e­ga­tion vis­ited In­dia to ex­change and en­hance co­op­er­a­tion with the In­dian Air Force (IAF). The prin­ci­pal ob­jec­tive was to ex­plore fresh ar­eas of col­lab­o­ra­tion and strengthen re­la­tions be­tween In­dia and Malaysia, both the Air Forces are fly­ing air­cafts like Su-30MKI, MiG-29 and Bri­tish air­craft Hawke. Gen­eral Daud vis­ited IAF’s Pune air­base to see the train­ing fa­cil­i­ties of Su30MKIs and Ozar base re­pair de­pot in Nasik which houses MiG-29 up­grade and over­haul fa­cil­ity as well as Su-30 man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity. Malaysian MiG-29 pi­lots were trained by the IAF in mid-1990s. In fact, Malaysian Air Force’s re­quire­ment of train­ing their MiG pi­lots was in­stru­men­tal in pro­pel­ling it sign the MoU.

IAF team has also trained Malaysian pi­lots and tech­ni­cians of Su-30. Malaysian Air Force had sought IAF’s help in train­ing their pi­lots in weapon sys­tem oper­a­tors and main­te­nance staff for Su-30MKI fighter air­craft. Ear­lier in Jan­uary 2013 IAF Chief Air Chief Mar­shal N.A.K. Browne had vis­ited Malaysia and the air­base at Kedak. In­dia has also as­sisted RMAF in set­ting up a Sys­tems School for the Su-30MKM at Gong Kedak Air­base.

In ad­di­tion to the co­op­er­a­tion be­tween two air forces the other im­por­tant di­men­sion of In­dia’s de­fence diplo­macy with Malaysia is co­op­er­a­tion in the naval and mar­itime do­main. Last year in Septem­ber the In­dian Chief of Naval Staff vis­ited Malaysia to strengthen the mar­itime and naval re­la­tion­ship with Kuala Lumpur.In­dian Navy has been reg­u­larly tak­ing part in the Langkawi In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime and Aero­space Ex­hi­bi­tion (LIMA) in Malaysia; In­dian naval ships and In­dian Coast Guard ships fre­quently make port calls at Malaysian ports. Sim­i­larly, Malaysian ships have also made port calls at the In­dian ports. Malaysian naval ships also have reg­u­larly taken part in joint naval ma­noeu­vres named as MI­LAN se­ries of ex­er­cises. The most re­cent con­duct of ex­er­cises was in Fe­bru­ary 2014 ships of where 16 coun­tries along with Malaysian ships also par­tic­i­pated. It was the big­gest ex­er­cise since its be­gin­ning in 1995.

The ob­jec­tive of such ex­er­cise has been that mar­itime forces of these na­tions come closer pro­fes­sion­ally and cul­tur­ally ce­ment­ing friend­ship and build­ing con­fi­dence in the ar­eas of in­ter-op­er­abil­ity. Coun­ter­ing piracy at the sea and co­or­di­nat­ing their re­search and res­cue op­er­a­tions and re­sponse to nat­u­ral dis­as­ters were other goals of these ma­noeu­vres. Fur­ther, Malaysia and In­dia have agreed to co­op­er­ate in the de­ploy­ment and main­te­nance of Scor­pene sub­marines, which both coun­tries have bought.

Not to be left be­hind the In­dian Army has also been ac­tive in strength­en­ing its ties with its coun­ter­part in Malaysia. In ad­di­tion to at­tend­ing cour­ses at each other’s train­ing es­tab­lish­ments Malaysian of­fi­cers have also at­tended cour­ses in UN peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions be­ing run in New Delhi. For the first time a bi­lat­eral army ex­er­cise Hari­mau Shakti based on con­ven­tional war in an ur­ban set­ting, in­clud­ing counter-ter­ror­ism and counter-in­sur­gency ac­tiv­i­ties, was car­ried out in Kuala Lumpur in Oc­to­ber 2012. The next army ex­er­cise is sched­uled to be held in In­dia this year. Malaysia and In­dia also agreed to have an ex­change pro­gramme for army train­ers be­tween the Army Train­ing Cen­tre and Counter In­sur­gency War­fare Cen­tre and also to ex­pand other ex­ist­ing train­ing ar­range­ments in the form of short cour­ses.

As the se­cu­rity of Malacca Strait is of con­cern both to In­dia and Malaysia New Delhi had ex­pressed its de­sire to join the mul­ti­lat­eral ef­fort of Malaysia, In­done­sia and Sin­ga­pore. How­ever, the gen­eral prin­ci­ple is that pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity of the se­cu­rity of Straits was that of the lit­toral straits. In­dian Navy has been co­or­di­nat­ing its pa­trolling ac­tiv­i­ties on the av­enues of en­try to Malacca Strait with the Malaysian and In­done­sian navies. An­other ini­tia­tive for mul­ti­lat­eral ef­forts has been the Eyes in the Sky pro­gramme which is a mar­itime air sur­veil­lance oper­a­tion over the Malacca Strait. This again has been limited to par­tic­i­pa­tion by the lit­toral states even though many coun­tries like In­dia and China were in­ter­ested in mak­ing a con­tri­bu­tion.

Nev­er­the­less, In­dia has been par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Co­op­er­a­tive Mech­a­nism on the Strait of Malacca and Sin­ga­pore (SOMS) and con­trib­uted to two of the six IMO Projects (Project 1 and Project 4) for en­hance­ment of nav­i­ga­tional safety and en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion in the Straits.

Both In­dia and Malaysia are mem­bers of the ASEAN De­fence Min­is­ters Meet­ing (ADDM) Plus fo­rum where shared de­fence and se­cu­rity con­cerns are dis­cussed and joint ex­er­cises are car­ried out es­pe­cially in the ar­eas of non-tra­di­tional se­cu­rity. The ba­sic ob­jec­tive of cre­at­ing this frame­work was to bring about co­op­er­a­tive se­cu­rity, es­pe­cially in the ar­eas of hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance, dis­as­ter re­lief, mar­itime se­cu­rity, counter-ter­ror­ism and peace­keep­ing op­er­a­tions. ADMM-Plus has also pro­posed fur­ther­ing of bi­lat­eral and mul­ti­lat­eral di­a­logue and shar­ing of ex­per­tise among the mil­i­tary forces of mem­ber states. The ar­range­ment also ad­vanced pro­pos­als to counter par­tic­u­lar threats and is­sues such as piracy and nat­u­ral dis­as­ter through joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cises. Last year a joint ex­er­cise was held off the coast of Brunei to prac­tise some of the above-men­tioned ob­jec­tives. Both Malaysian and In­dian de­fence forces took part in the ex­er­cise.

Malaysian de­fence re­la­tion­ship with In­dia needs to be seen in the over­all con­text of what is hap­pen­ing in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion. While China is in­creas­ingly be­com­ing as­sertive in its ter­ri­to­rial claims and ASEAN na­tions are re­spond­ing to China’s rise through co­op­er­a­tion with US and other re­gional pow­ers Malaysia has been very prag­matic in its ap­proach. Even though it has en­hanced its de­fence ties with the US and western pow­ers it continues to main­tain a bal­anced re­la­tion­ship with China. It needs to be noted that Malaysia has an­nual trade fig­ure of $106 bil­lion with China which is more than that with In­dia and is at third place in Asia with Ja­pan and South Korea com­ing at first and sec­ond places re­spec­tively. There­fore, its op­po­si­tion to China’s ag­gres­sive ac­tiv­i­ties in South China Sea has been muted. But that does not mean that it does not con­sider China as a se­cu­rity chal­lenge. In­dia is con­sid­ered as a be­nign power and some­what of a bal­ancer to China there­fore strength­en­ing of Malaysia-In­dia de­fence re­la­tion­ship is seen as mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial to both coun­tries.

In con­clu­sion it can be said that while there is a tremen­dous scope for broad­en­ing and deep­en­ing the de­fence re­la­tion­ship with Malaysia there is a lack of in­te­grated and co­or­di­nated re­sponse from In­dia’s min­istries of de­fence, ex­ter­nal af­fairs and eco­nomic af­fairs. The ab­sence of a uni­fied re­sponse in forg­ing a strate­gic re­la­tion­ship with Malaysia de­spite con­ver­gence of both coun­tries’ in­ter­est is also pos­si­bly due to lack of an ar­tic­u­lated na­tional se­cu­rity strat­egy on part of In­dia. Even though there is a mech­a­nism of reg­u­lar strate­gic di­a­logue be­tween In­dia and Malaysia it has not been paid at­ten­tion it de­serves. Cur­rently, there is a pos­i­tive per­cep­tion of In­dia in Malaysia re­gard­ing its ris­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties and as a pos­si­ble be­nign bal­ancer in the com­plex se­cu­rity dy­nam­ics in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion. In­dia re­mains a pre­ferred part­ner of ASEAN in all its en­deav­ours and Malaysia en­dorses that view. Mil­i­tary-to-mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion with Malaysia is re­quired to be fur­ther strength­ened to achieve In­dia’s strate­gic ob­jec­tives of its ‘Look East Pol­icy’.

Malaysian De­fence Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Dato Dr Haji Ismail Bin Haji Ahmed call­ing on the De­fence Min­is­ter A.K. Antony in New Delhi on June 21, 2013

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