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Insight: The 2011 ASEAN
Summit and its significance

The ASEAN Summit and the ensuing gathering of the ASEAN Dialogue Partners will be held from Nov. 17-19, 2011, in Bali. Indonesia has played host to ASEAN summits three times: in 1976, 2003 and 2011.

The first summit produced the Bali Concord I, which laid out ASEAN fundamentals, including the setting up of the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, proposing ASEAN objectives and programs and producing the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) as the basis for peaceful conflict resolution among its signatories. The 2003 ASEAN Summit ushered in the Bali Concord II covering ASEAN community building with its three pillars: Political and Security Community, Economic Community and Sociocultural Community. The 2011 ASEAN Summit aims to produce the Bali Concord III on the ASEAN Community in the Global Community of Nations.

Indonesia will also host the new East Asian Summit with its 18 members, with the inclusion of the US and Russia for the first time.

I have been following ASEAN’s development since its inception in 1967, and Indonesia should be proud of the role it has been playing, especially as chair, because Indonesia has been able to introduce new thinking and ideas, as well as new programs, into ASEAN.

During its 2011 ASEAN chairmanship, Indonesia brought in new initiatives, including the role played by Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa as an intermediary in the Cambodia-Thailand conflict over the temple that straddles the shared border between the two countries. While he has not yet managed to come up with a desired settlement, (one idea was to deploy Indonesian troops as peace observers), at least the conflict has calmed down and the fighting has ceased.

On his recent visit to Myanmar, Marty was encouraged by the efforts of the Myanmar government to open up its political system and introduce other reforms. He saw changes taking place across the board and he does not expect Myanmar to back-track in these processes. Now is the time for ASEAN to provide steadfast support to Myanmar in order to make these changes permanent.

Such support should not only be concerned with helping Myanmar to assume ASEAN’s chairmanship in 2014 but, more importantly, in assisting Myanmar to introduce more reforms, such as releasing more political prisoners, providing better care for the nation’s minorities — especially those living in the highlands — and strengthening the economy. The opening up of Myanmar should invite ASEAN Track-Two activities to support the country’s civil society organizations and think tanks to function fully and freely in order to provide their own support to Myanmar’s development processes.

The convening of the new East Asia Summit is of great importance, especially given that it will include the US and Russia. The livelihood of the EAS can be the crowning achievement in efforts toward establishing regional institutions in East Asia. It should serve as the principal meeting of the most important region in the world to create a future regional order for East Asia. It is a sort of “concert of powers” for East Asia.

The EAS should deliberate strategic issues for the region in economics and political and security fields. Its decisions or guidance will be taken up and implemented by the existing regional institutions: Economic issues and functional cooperation in the ASEAN+3; political and non-traditional security issues by the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF); and the ASEAN Defense Ministers Plus (ADMM Plus) overseeing traditional security issues. ASEAN should also be able to contribute to the APEC and G20 processes, as the motto of the 2011 ASEAN Summit indicates: the “ASEAN Community in The Global Community of Nations”.

This is a tremendous challenge for ASEAN; and Indonesia’s role, either through the ASEAN Troika (comprising foreign ministers from former, existing and future chairs of the ASEAN Security Community), or the special committees, or through an active Secretariat General, could be critical to the EAS’ future.

The fourth initiative is to keep dialogue and negotiations on the implementation of, respectively, the Declaration of Conduct of the Parties in the South China Sea (DoC), and the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea (CoC) moving ahead. These are important legal instruments for peace and stability in the region. ASEAN’s most important role is to create a regional order, or a legal mechanism, to prevent conflict and to support peace and stability in the South China Sea.

These four initiatives are the most important achievements of Indonesia’s leadership during its 2011 ASEAN chairmanship. Bravo Indonesia for a job well done!

The writer is vice chair of the board of trustees at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Foundation, Jakarta.

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