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Jakarta Post

Can there be ASEAN centrality without unity?

  • Evan A. Laksmana

Jakarta   /   Tue, September 6 2016   /  07:47 am

During an international seminar organized by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to commemorate its 45th anniversary last week, the Indonesian ambassador to the UK and former CSIS executive director, Rizal Sukma, posed one of the pertinent strategic questions of the day: Can ASEAN maintain its centrality without unity?

He raised the question in light of criticisms that ASEAN has been unable to act as one in dealing with China in the South China Sea. We witnessed this disunity play out in Cambodia in 2012 and almost saw its repetition in Vientiane two months ago if it hadn’t been for the hard work of Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi and her team.

The question of “centrality without unity” nevertheless remains pertinent, not just for Jakarta, but for the wider Indo-Pacific region as well. After all, for better or worse, ASEAN — along with its ...