ASEAN to be axis of Indo-Pa­cific plan

In­done­sia wants strength among re­gion to aid sta­bil­ity

Viet Nam News - - ASIA -

JAKARTA — In­done­sia wants to work with other ASEAN coun­tries to strengthen the re­gional ar­chi­tec­ture un­der an Indo-Pa­cific co-op­er­a­tion, For­eign Min­is­ter Retno Mar­sudi said in her an­nual speech yes­ter­day.

The world’s largest archipelagic na­tion aims to fo­cus on main­tain­ing sta­bil­ity, se­cu­rity and wel­fare in re­gions sur­round­ing the Pa­cific and In­dian oceans, which it con­sid­ers a “sin­gle geostrate­gic the­atre”.

“We must all en­sure that the In­dian and Pa­cific oceans do not be­come a site of bat­tle for nat­u­ral re­sources, re­gional con­flicts and mar­itime supremacy,” Retno said at the event at­tended by for­eign am­bas­sadors and diplo­mats.

The United States, Ja­pan, Aus­tralia and In­dia have ad­vo­cated a “free and open Indo-Pa­cific” to aug­ment strate­gic co­op­er­a­tion among like-minded mar­itime pow­ers. It in­volves coun­tries si­t­u­ated within the world’s ma­jor oceans.

How­ever, there have been dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions of the con­cept. The US, for in­stance, en­vi­sions wider co­op­er­a­tion with Ja­pan, Aus­tralia and In­dia as a way to con­tain China, which has been try­ing to ex­ert greater power over South-east Asian coun­tries through its mul­ti­tril­lion-dol­lar Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.

In­done­sian Pres­i­dent Joko Wi­dodo first in­tro­duced the coun­try’s vi­sion of the con­cept dur­ing the East Asia Sum­mit last Novem­ber in Sin­ga­pore. It is based on the key prin­ci­ples of open­ness, in­clu­siv­ity, co­op­er­a­tion, di­a­logue, re­spect for in­ter­na­tional law and ASEAN cen­tral­ity.

ASEAN so far has yet to unite on the is­sue and may de­lib­er­ate it in the for­eign min­is­ters’ re­treat next week in Chi­ang Mai, Thai­land.

Dr Beginda Pak­pa­han, a po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic an­a­lyst on global af­fairs at Uni­ver­sity of In­done­sia, said In­done­sia must ex­er­cise its free and ac­tive ap­proach at the cen­tre of ma­jor pow­ers and co-op­er­a­tion.

Along with its ASEAN neigh­bours, In­done­sia must take an in­de­pen­dent stance in the cre­ation of re­gional gov­er­nance based on the Indo-Pa­cific con­cept, he added.

“The goal is to make ASEAN an axis of sym­met­ri­cal in­ter­ests be­tween it­self and its ex­ter­nal part­ners. It can of­fer peace, re­gional sta­bil­ity and eco­nomic pros­per­ity for coun­tries lo­cated be­tween the two oceans,” Dr Beginda told The Straits Times.

“By ex­ist­ing means, such as the East Asia Sum­mit and ASEAN re­gional fo­rums, In­done­sia and other ASEAN coun­tries must put them­selves in the driver’s seat in the Indo-Pa­cific frame­work,” he added.

Retno, who is In­done­sia’s first fe­male for­eign min­is­ter, also said ASEAN must be proac­tive in re­spond­ing to de­vel­op­ments in the re­gion and be­come the driver of change.

Un­der­lin­ing the im­por­tance of sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity in the South China Sea, she said In­done­sia will make sure that the Dec­la­ra­tion on the Con­duct of Par­ties, which ASEAN and China set­tled late last year, can be fully im­ple­mented, and an agree­ment on the code of con­duct will be com­pleted within the next three years, as ex­pected. — The Straits Times/ANN

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