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Jakarta Post

Insight: Time to deepen Indo-Pacific cooperation

Jakarta   /   Wed, March 20, 2019   /   10:02 am
Insight: Time to deepen Indo-Pacific cooperation ASEAN must understand that its future, economically and militarily, will also depend on stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (Shutterstock/File)

For over five decades, countries in Southeast Asia and its surroundings in Asia, the Pacific Ocean and Pacific Rim have enjoyed peace and stability, upon which economic growth and welfare have accumulated.

The marvel of uninterrupted development has transformed them into a group of countries that are part of the engines of global economic growth. Moreover, through decades of intensive interactions and the habit of dialogue, many important regional institutions and mechanisms have been formed, in which ASEAN has played a pivotal role.

As a country strategically located between the Pacific and Indian oceans, Indonesia places a high premium on ensuring peace, stability and prosperity in both regions.

For centuries, the two great oceans have been among the world’s most important trade routes, hence one of the main sources of global growth.

As they are closely interlinked and interconnected by oceans, the maritime domain has been and will continue increasingly to become a common interest among the nations.

Consequently, countries in the region must work together to maintain peace and stability at sea. Otherwise, the maritime domain will become the source of friction in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Unresolved maritime boundaries remain in place. Moreover, countries face rapidly depleted marine resources, including fish as our source of nutrients.

Moreover, climate change and maritime pollution pose serious problems for coastal communities. The sea-level rise threatening the survival of many island nations is not a myth.

As a maritime and archipelagic nation, Indonesia is also facing all these challenges. Yet, Indonesia fully realizes that no country alone can cope with these perennial challenges.

It will require regional and global maritime cooperation based on common interests. Every nation is responsible for being part of concerted steps to address such common concerns.

Today, the newly accumulated wealth and welfare of countries in Asia, the Pacific and Africa present us with enormous opportunities to work together.

It is vital for these countries to ensure that rapid developments in the past five decades will not spur strategic rivalry or conflicts.

This is a strategic challenge that has long been anticipated.

As such, Indonesia and ASEAN have taken many initiatives to develop and strengthen regional cooperation and mechanisms.

Assessing developments in both the Indian and Pacific oceans, Indonesia views it as high time for all countries in both oceans to redouble efforts in strengthening regional cooperation. All countries concerned must ensure that both oceans remain a region of peace and cooperation, not that of rivalry and conflict.

Essentially, countries must together develop a framework of cooperation in Indo-Pacific.

Various countries have already proposed initiatives of Indo-Pacific cooperation.

While all views are important and can enrich regional cooperation, Indonesia is of the view that the initiatives have created a rare opportunity for synergy.

In implementing its vision, Indonesia has also promoted several inherent key principles for Indo-Pacific cooperation.

They include an emphasis on ASEAN centrality, openness, transparency, inclusivity and respect for international law, to enhance mutual trust, respect and benefit.

The realization of such a vision is undertaken through a two-pronged approach.

First, we must continue strengthening ASEAN-led mechanisms — particularly the East Asia Summit (EAS). Second, we will continue to bridge and connect these mechanisms with other non-ASEAN regional mechanisms in the Indo-Pacific region.

Potential cooperation between EAS and other mechanisms in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions on common concerns and interests will build partnership through a win-win paradigm and mindset, to create an avenue to reduce potential rivalry and competition in the region.

Additionally, the cooperation will open new opportunities for all nations to achieve economic growth and become a new center and engine for the global economy. Positive contributions and engagements from all countries will allow the achievement of peace, stability and prosperity in the Indian and Pacific oceans.

To continue facilitating discussions on such a vision, Indonesia will convene an event called the “High-Level Dialogue on Indo-Pacific Cooperation: Toward a Peaceful, Prosperous and Inclusive Region” on March 20 in Jakarta.

This dialogue will serve as a dynamic and interactive platform to share each and everyone’s view on Indo-Pacific cooperation. This forum will not only build trust among countries but will also nurture the seed of long-term and inclusive cooperation among countries in Asia-Pacific and around the Indian Ocean.

Moreover, the dialogue will also provide an opportunity to promote concrete collaboration among stakeholders in the region in the areas of maritime cooperation; infrastructure and connectivity; and sustainable development goals.

This meeting in Jakarta is an opportunity for those countries to have an open discussion and identify real and potential cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

Although countries may have varying interpretations on the meaning or the implications of any form of cooperation, clearly this region has been peaceful and thus should be the focal point for greater world peace, stability and prosperity.

By recognizing the available and potential opportunities for regional cooperation, we can dismiss unnecessary suspicion and mistrust that cloud the Indo-Pacific discourse.

Instead, opportunities will guide us into a greater sense of hope and faith for stronger and lasting cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

In my very humble opinion, this is something all countries in the region should be able to agree upon and even act upon.

***

The writer is Indonesia’s foreign minister.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.