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Jakarta Post

RI to enhance regionalism as new chair of IORA

  • Tama Salim

    The Jakarta Post

Padang, W. Sumatra   /   Thu, October 22, 2015   /  06:01 pm

Indonesia has pledged to enhance regionalism along the Indian Ocean rim and leverage the increasingly attractive transcontinental trade route in a forum deemed by many as an opportunity to consolidate the nation'€™s stature as an emerging maritime power.

Taking up the role of chair in the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) for the next two years, Indonesia will push for more intensive dialogue and increase regional cooperation among its member countries, a senior Foreign Ministry official says.

Yuri Octavian Thamrin, the ministry'€™s director-general for the Asia-Pacific and Africa, said that strategic geopolitical interests and non-traditional security threats, like illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, human trafficking and natural disasters, have given rise to the need for increased regional integration.

'€œIndonesia attaches great importance to enhancing regionalism in the Indian Ocean region as this is the key to maintaining peace and stability among the countries of the region,'€ Yuri said in his opening remarks for the IORA Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) in Padang, West Sumatra, on Wednesday.

'€œWe need more than a balance of power; we need a groundswell of regionalism.'€

With half of the world'€™s container ships, one-third of its bulk cargo traffic and two-thirds of global oil shipments traveling through the area, a comprehensive regional framework for maritime cooperation along the Indian Ocean rim would greatly benefit Indonesia and other member states.

'€œWe must [enhance our connectivity] in a comprehensive manner; we must improve the quality of transportation networks all over the region, [...] harmonize regulations and deepen people-to-people interaction,'€ said Yuri, who chaired the SOM.

The IORA chairmanship also happens to be a potent opportunity for Indonesia to promote President Joko '€œJokowi'€ Widodo'€™s maritime axis doctrine and consolidate itself as a major maritime player.

A well-documented campaign against IUU fishing has pushed Indonesia to seek regional support in ASEAN and its neighboring countries, such as Papua New Guinea, Timor Leste and Australia, with more inter-regional initiatives to come.

The Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Ministry also recently announced a plan to issue a ministerial regulation to adopt a comprehensive guide for human rights protection in the fisheries sector as a way to curtail fisheries-related crimes.

'€œWe need more than a balance of power; we need a groundswell of regionalism.'€

During the handover ceremony with Australia as IORA'€™s immediate past chair, Yuri also revealed plans to promote more strategic outcomes in upcoming events, continue efforts to leverage the institution on the global stage and strengthen maritime cooperation through its six priority areas.

IORA'€™s six priorities consist of maritime safety and security, trade and investment facilitation, fisheries management, disaster risk management, academic research, science and technology, as well as tourism and cultural exchange.

Preparations are also under way for a concord and summit in March 2017 that draws together IORA heads of government to mark the organization'€™s 20th anniversary.

To follow up on the proposal made at the Ministerial Blue Economy Conference in Mauritius last month, Indonesia circulated a concept paper on enhancing regionalism through the IORA concord.

'€œWe must not merely observe and [...] celebrate this event; we must make it a truly historic moment that is also a concrete contribution to the long-term welfare of our region,'€ said the senior diplomat.

Separately, Adriana Elizabeth of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) said that Indonesia'€™s chairmanship was a good opportunity to seriously develop the maritime sector.

According to the international relations expert, the position will enable Indonesia to direct the agenda for the next two years, such as by ensuring maritime security and reducing the discrepancy between developed and underdeveloped countries in the region.

'€œWe like to imagine the region as a calm and peaceful one, but we can also see that there is potential for rivalry. It is up to us to safeguard the peace and to bring a positive impact on the member states,'€ she said on Wednesday.

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