After an encouraging diplomatic performance in 2013, Indonesia’s foreign policy this year is expected to continue to vigorously address the triple challenges of the Asia-Pacific region: trust deficits, territorial disputes and geo-political and geo-economic shifts.
Indonesia will also prioritize the courting of Myanmar, notorious for its poor human-rights record and undemocratic rule, in the latter’s role as ASEAN chair in 2014 ahead of the grouping’s historic economic integration in 2015.
“At a time when the Southeast Asia region is entering the final stretch toward the ASEAN Community 2015, the wider region, namely East Asia and Asia Pacific, is showing signs of rising tensions and
uncertainties,” said Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa during his annual press statement at his
office on Tuesday.
“At a time when the economies of the region are more intertwined and interdependent than ever before signs of trust deficits are ever more prevalent. And at a time when the advantages of the peaceful settlement of disputes are self-evident, there are signs that unilateral approaches are instead being preferred,” he said.
Marty said that the 2013 agreement between China and ASEAN to start formal consultations on a regional code of conduct in the South China Sea was a remarkable achievement.
“In a manner, Southeast Asia’s experience, whether it be in community building or conflict prevention, is relevant to the wider East Asia and Asia-Pacific region. For example, developments over the past year in the East China Sea and, of course, the perennial tensions on the Korean Peninsula, remind us that countries in East Asia too are in need of the promotion of confidence, and of the settlement of disputes by peaceful diplomatic means,” he said.
The administration of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono will have less than 10 months before its term expires, forcing many of its officials to work on last-ditch efforts to seal a lasting legacy.
Among the achievements that the administration hopes will ensure its success is the smooth leadership of Myanmar in chairing ASEAN ahead of the grouping’s historic economic integration in 2015.
Myanmar would not only contribute to the ASEAN Community development but also receive a boost of energy and momentum in its democratization process during its chairmanship, Marty said.
“The next two years will be extremely important years, because we are moving toward the ASEAN Community. We have Myanmar as ASEAN chair in 2014 and will have Malaysia in 2015,” he said.
ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, comprises Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Marty said Indonesia would work together with Myanmar in achieving its herculean task ahead of the community.
“My confident belief is that Myanmar’s chairmanship in 2014 will in fact further strengthen and create additional momentum in the reform and democratization in Myanmar,” he said.
Critics have continued to cast doubts and express skepticism over whether it was the right decision to let a “problematic” nation like Myanmar lead the 10-nation bloc for the first time.
Up until a few years ago, Myanmar was still considered an isolated dictatorship with a dismal human-rights record. Conflicts in Myanmar have left hundreds dead and hundreds of thousands more displaced.
This has continued in the form of recent sectarian conflicts involving Muslim and Buddhist mobs.
Some analysts have regarded allowing Myanmar to lead ASEAN as a form of reward after its military junta turned over power to an elected government two years ago.
The hope is that putting the spotlight on Myanmar will serve as a further incentive for reform and
democratization. Marty stressed that Indonesia’s insistence and persistence in pursuing the appointment of Myanmar as chair would eventually lead to a better nation.
Marty said this year would also be marked by a further strengthening of Indonesia’s support for Palestine through institutional capacity building.
As the host of the Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development (CEAPAD), Indonesia would galvanize support for such programs from countries in East Asia, according to Marty.
Indonesia’s role in global arena in 2013
– Chairing the 2013 APEC
– Co-chairing the UN High Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 agenda
– Contributing to agreement between ASEAN and China on starting formal consultation on the “code of conduct” in the South China Sea
– Engaging in diplomatic efforts to pursue a peaceful solution over chemical weapons in Syria.
– Contributing to the diplomatic path in dealing with the 5+1 talks with Iran
– Hosting the 2013 WTO Ministerial Conference
– Co-chairing and hosting the 2013 Forum of East Asian and Latin American Cooperation