The Jakarta Post
Amid rising rivalry and a string of border tensions in the region, President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo presented leaders of East Asia and several powerhouse nations with his maritime axis doctrine that will define his administration's policies for the next five years.
In his speech during the East Asia Summit (EAS) on Thursday, held in Myanmar's new capital, Naypyitaw, Jokowi presented his audience with a complete exposition of his foreign policy doctrine: Indonesia as a maritime fulcrum, the power between two oceans.
Fully aware that a major transition is taking place in the 21st century from the West to East Asia, Jokowi underscored Indonesia's growing importance as a nation that lies at the center of the geographic, economic and political changes that are sweeping across the globe.
'Thus, as a maritime country, Indonesia should assert itself as the World Maritime Axis. This position opens opportunities for Indonesia to develop regional and international cooperation for the prosperity of the people,' he said in his five-minute address.
The President also explained that as the World Maritime Axis, Indonesia was certainly interested in participating in determining the future of the Indian and Pacific Ocean region.
'We want the Indian and Pacific Oceans to remain peaceful and safe for world trade instead of being a battlefield for natural resources, territorial conflicts and maritime supremacy,' said the former furniture businessman.
Jokowi said that the doctrine hinged on five pillars of action that included ensuring regional security.
'Indonesia is obligated to build its maritime defense power. This is necessary not only to secure its maritime wealth and sovereignty but also to take responsibility for safeguarding navigation safety and maritime security.'
Cabinet Secretary Andi Widjajanto said that based on that pillar Indonesia would have to shift its defense priority to the sea.
'Maritime defense will be a combination of the coast guard and the Navy so that as the world's largest archipelago we will have a significant increase in the number of patrol and battle ships,' said Andi, who is a defense and security expert by training.
Foreign affairs observer Rizal Sukma of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said that Jokowi's foreign policy doctrine, which positioned Indonesia as a maritime fulcrum, reflected his deep understanding of Indonesia's geopolitical position, its identity as a maritime nation and its developmental goals.
'This also means Indonesia's free and active principle finds a new manifestation in a novel strategic context of changing global and regional power relations,' said Rizal, who is advising Jokowi during his nine-day diplomatic blitz that covers China, Myanmar and Australia.
'Indonesia will face the tremendous challenge of staying true to its free and active principle,' Rizal added.
Jokowi chose the East Asia Summit to showcase his maritime axis doctrine as the forum plays an important role in regional security, stability and economic prosperity.
The EAS brought together leaders from the 10 ASEAN member states: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as presidents from the US and South Korea and prime ministers from China, Russia, Australia, India, New Zealand and Japan.
The 18 East Asia Summit member- countries represent collectively 55 percent of the world's population and account for around 56 percent of global GDP. The summit released a joint declaration on various issues, from calls to curb the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria to the deadly Ebola virus outbreak.
Five pillars of the Maritime Axis doctrine
' Rebuild Indonesia's maritime culture. As a country that is made up of 17,000 islands, the nation must realize that its future is largely determined by how it manages the oceans.
' Indonesia will maintain and manage sea resources with a focus on establishing sovereignty over sea-based food products.
' The country will prioritize infrastructure and maritime connectivity development by building sea tolls and deep sea ports while also improving the shipping industry, logistics and maritime tourism.
' Through maritime diplomacy, Indonesia must end the sources of conflict at sea, such as fish thefts, violation of sovereignty, territorial disputes, piracy and pollution.
' As a country that is the bridge between two oceans, Indonesia is obligated to build its maritime defense power.