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Switzerland posts its first Defence Attaché to Singapore

IN view of the growing strategic importance of Southeast Asia, Switzerland posted Colonel (GS) Hans Eberhart as its first resident Defence Attaché to its embassy in Singapore in August last year. He is also accredited to Thailand.

Previously, bilateral military business in Southeast Asia had been looked after by the Defence Attaché residing in New Delhi. But this allowed only for temporary visits and the implementation of the most essential tasks, such as preparing for and accompanying delegations.

As a small Alpine state, Switzerland does not base its security strategy solely on autonomy. The Swiss Confederation has co-operated and engaged with other countries to contribute to a stable, rules-based and peaceful international order according to its values, principles and interests, says Colonel Eberhart.

The Swiss Armed Forces work internationally through a network of 19 Defence Attachés. They represent the armed forces and the Federal Department of Defence, Civil Protection and Sport in more than 50 countries and facilitate the politico-military business and co-operation with Switzerland's partners.

The Swiss Defence Attaché in Singapore focuses primarily on two areas. The first is enhancing dialogue in matters pertaining to military doctrine and the military system. Switzerland currently works on a programme called "Air2030", consisting of four interdependent projects which together form a holistic package to protect the Swiss airspace.

Switzerland and Singapore have a common interest in cyber defence, says Colonel Eberhart. States are increasingly turning to cyber tools in order to engage in economic espionage or impairing the functioning of the infrastructure, including the armed forces. Thus, exchanges on the challenges and solutions against cyber interference and/or attacks on critical infrastructure can help to optimise the approach for short- to medium-term solutions.

The other area is using Singapore as an information hub for a better understanding of security and technological developments in Asia. "The region will remain an area of strategic competition and important developments. This and the efforts to invent and master advanced technologies, data and information in the military domain are important fields for us to follow," Colonel Eberhart says.

Therefore, the Fullerton Forum, the Shangri-La Dialogue and the activities of the various think tanks have become increasingly important to attend. Their free and frank exchanges and debates are increasingly needed for identifying and getting a better understanding of interests, and the ways and means by which the key actors play out in the region. They are also an excellent platform for networking, says Colonel Eberhart.

The Singapore Airshow 2020 was a focal point for defence relations as it served as an ideal meeting platform for high ranking visits to Singapore. The Swiss Partnership Pavilion showcased some innovative big and small firms. The Swiss delegation led by Martin Sonderegger, the National Armaments director, reinforced its business network and got important insights into technological developments in the field of aerospace. It also gave a credible strategic message in the interest of meaningful bilateral defence and military relations with Singapore in the future, adds Colonel Eberhart.

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