Terrorism in Southeast Asia: Australia's Security Threat and Response
Shuja, Sharif, Contemporary Review
TERRORISM can be defined as 'a form of psychological warfare that is used to create extreme fear through the use of threat of force against non-combatant civilian military targets'.  Terrorism is as much about psychological maiming as it is about physical destruction. Terrorists seek to be noticed and the mass media are often there to oblige them. Attacking a country's embassy, an airliner, or a major commercial target provides the terrorists with the advertising that they covet.
Until fairly recently, terrorism has generally been associated with the Middle East, and perhaps to a lesser degree Western Europe or North America. Increasingly, however, it is Asia that is taking centre stage in the world of international terrorism. In South Asia, the festering and unresolved Kashmir issue sows the seeds of regional and international terrorism. Many of Southeast Asia's latent ethnic conflicts were exposed as a result of the 1997 financial crisis. In Indonesia, for instance, a sudden wave of economic insecurity unleashed a massive wave of ethnic discord--much of it directed against ethnic Chinese citizens--that later transmuted into a campaign against Christians and foreigners.
In addition to ethnic, religious and political fissures driving the rise of terrorism, the spread of transnational crime and other forms of lawlessness also facilitate its spread. In an era of non-state funded terrorism, many groups find that they must survive by engaging in narcotics trafficking or other lucrative criminal activities. Narcotics trafficking is rife throughout Asia and provides a source of funding for terror groups. Moreover, militant Islamic ideology in certain groups in Indonesia provides a base for terrorist organizations.
The issue of terrorism has become increasingly important for Southeast Asian governments in the last few years. The increase in frequency and the effect of terrorist activities and political violence has threatened communities and stymied business growth and tourism. This article, reviewing contemporary Australia-Southeast Asia relations, examines the issue of terrorism in the region, assesses the threat and its implications for Australia.
Australia's Relations with Southeast Asia
Significant development between Australia and Southeast Asia occurred between the late 1980s and early 1990s, a time in which the Labor government was in power. These years reflected the most optimistic period of Australian foreign policy. They mirrored Australia's strong belief in globalization, economic integration and convergence of a democratic value system in the region.
By the late 1990s, the situation had changed dramatically. Complexities were becoming more evident, culminating in the Asian crisis. The crisis utterly changed Australian perspectives on Asia as the region seemed to have embarked on exclusively Asian initiatives and anti-Western sentiments. At the same time, rapid domestic political changes in Australia also raised the concerns of the Asian governments, especially over Australia's 'racist tendency' in its policies--something that was actually more of an anti-globalization attitude rather than racial.
The East Timor issue further soured relations. Indonesian resentment was fuelled by Australia's role in assisting the referendum, which resulted in East Timor's independence, and its role in the UN-sponsored military intervention to restore order after Indonesian-backed militias indulged in arson and violence in East Timor in 1999.
Australia was also in the forefront of Western nations' demands that Indonesia crack down on the extremist Jemaah Islamiyah movement, which Indonesian government officials initially insisted did not exist in Indonesia. Other issues like illegal refugees, piracy problems, conflict over West Papua, the September 11 tragedy and the Bali bombing were also amongst the apparent obstacles.
Australia's 2001 Election was often regarded as the lowest point in Australia-Asia relations. …