Indonesian defense chief Ryamizard Ryacudu updated ASEAN counterparts in Bangkok on Thursday about efforts to collaborate in dealing with militancy and other regional security challenges, as he presented a paper on the “Our Eyes” counter-terrorist initiative spearheaded by Jakarta.
The 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations later in the day adopted official terms of reference for “Our Eyes,” which ASEAN approved last October in a bid by six of its members to share intelligence and build a database to counter violent extremism across the region.
Terrorism, separatism, drug trafficking, natural disasters and outbreaks of disease were among security threats facing Southeast Asia, Ryacudu told his counterparts during the 13th ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting hosted by Thailand.
“The ASEAN defense ministers have agreed to form working groups to deal with these problems, including intelligence cooperation through the Our Eyes initiative,” Ryacudu said in a statement posted by the Indonesian Defense Ministry. “This is one of the clear examples of successful ASEAN cooperation in the field of defense.
“In addition, trilateral measures in the form of joint sea and air patrols have been effective and will be expanded with joint land operations involving Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.”
During his presentation, Ryacudu also highlighted the region’s diversity along with its natural and renewable resources that attracts the other nations to the region, Indonesia’s national news agency, Antara, reported.
“Hence, it comes as no surprise that the world community is also keen to join forces to collaborate in the region. We have also agreed to have a collaborative community to deal with various security issues that have the potential to disrupt stability in the region, for which some steps for cooperation have been taken, including the prevention of terrorism and others,” he said, according to Antara.
Previously, the Indonesian foreign ministry said “Our Eyes” was meant to revolutionize efforts by Southeast Asian countries to combat counter-terrorist efforts. The five other ASEAN members that agreed to collaborate in the initiative are the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Brunei.
The joint effort was envisioned as a way to increase cooperation among intelligence branches of each county while blocking militant-recruitment efforts. During the October 2018 meeting of ASEAN leaders, Indonesian officials pointed out that joint patrols with the Philippine navy had lowered the terror threat in the region.
“There will be challenges to work together, but the desire of government leaders to overcome traditional barriers and expand international cooperation has the potential to change the counter-terrorism landscape in Asia, by preventing incidents like Marawi from happening again,” the Indonesian foreign ministry said at the time.