The role of Indonesia in the region and the world

Juwono Sudarsono, Canberra Mon, 05/03/2010 9:37 AM Opinion

Indonesia’s strategic vision is defined by its strategic geopolitical and geoeconomic location which defines its perennial interest in keeping track of security trends in the linkages of regional clusters encompassing: Northeast Asia (Japan, China, South Korea) including Taiwan; Southeast Asia (the 10 member states of ASEAN), including Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste; Southwest Pacific (Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific).

Together with the United States, Canada, Chile and Brazil, the Trans Pacific Partnership constitutes roughly 76 percent of the world’s GDP.

Indonesia is one of the world’s geopolitical “regional pivotal states” along with Egypt, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and Australia, the latter seven being co-members of the G20.

In diplomatic forums Indonesia participates in the UN system, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), ASEAN, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM), the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the East Asia Summit (EAS), and since 2008, in the G20.

Within the ASEAN Security Community (ASC), Indonesia strives to cooperate and maintain intra ASEAN stability with its nine fellow member states in mainland and maritime Southeast Asia.

The three pillars of the ASC (Political-Security, Economic and Social-Cultural) reinforce constructive engagement and maintain a balanced “strategic space” by accommodating the interests of extra regional powers (the US, Japan, China, India and Russia).

Australia and New Zealand both play critical security assurance roles in sustaining this constant “rebalancing engagement” in Southeast Asia.

As the largest ASEAN member state in terms of geographical size, population, and economy, Indonesia’s role is to emphasize collaborative rather than assertive leadership. Indonesia believes that effective and credible leadership within the ASC rest on our improved domestic political cohesion, economic development and national security through provision of good governance, equitable economic development and social justice at home.

A secure ASEAN environment is in our strategic interest just as a stable Indonesia is in the interests of all our ASEAN partners.

As the world’s largest economy, the United States’ military presence in Asia and the Pacific has long defined Asia Pacific security. Throughout the Cold War (1947-1990) and beyond (1990-present), the United States Pacific Command (PACOM) held its role as the “main security provider”.

That preponderance provided its treaty allies (Japan, South Korea, Taiwan) to secure 80 percent of energy supplies from the Middle East within a stable Northeast Asia-Southeast Asia-Indian Ocean environment.
It also enabled Japan, the Republic of Korea, Taiwan and eventually China to accumulate today’s combined GDP of almost US$12 trillion, whilst at the same time underwriting America’s trade and fiscal deficits.

American military preponderance secured both the intra-regional and trans-regional strategic balance. Japan, South Korea and (since 1978) China provided economic, trade and investment commitments, leading ASEAN to become today a community of 10 nations with a combined GDP of $1.3 trillion.

The security, trade and investment complementarities linking Northeast and Southeast Asia were facilitated by America’s critical role as “regional balancer” underpinning trans-regional security.

The political prominence and economic rise of Japan (GDP $5 trillion), China ($4.8 trillion) and India ($2.4 trillion) lead to graduated desire to increase their political and security presence within each countries “core area of interest” as well as beyond.

In the next 10-15 years ASEAN needs to re-calibrate the strength and quality of its combined conventional forces presence in ways that accommodate the imperative to “co-determine” the terms and conditions of western Asia Pacific security without upsetting the rebalancing process among the major powers, including Russia.

Indonesia’s vision within the ASC is to provide “strategic space” and as well as maintain “technological parity” among all residents as well as among extra-regional powers in order that multilateral cooperation, regional security and economic prosperity reinforce one another.

This new regional security architecture need to secure 38 percent of the world’s 90 percent seaborne trade passing through the straits of Southeast Asia, including the three sea lines of communications traversing the Indonesian archipelago.

The real challenge is to coordinate and synchronize public and private business leaders to harness a concerted vision based on each country’s distinct geopolitical location relative to its geoeconomic competitive strength.
Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore exemplify success in utilizing “brainpower” in order “to live off” the rest of the world precisely because they do not possess natural resources.

What combination of “hard”, “soft” and “smart” powers must leadership groups in government, in the military and in private business command in order to be able to connect, cooperate and, at the same time, compete with one another as well as with the rest of the world? Of the annual US$190 trillion global financial market transactions, more than 60 percent connect financial hubs in the Asia Pacific region.

What will be the role of traditional “military power” compared to the growing importance of “non-military warfare” such as the “battle” over brain-ware, creativity, ideas and innovation? What is the optimum mix matching the ability to “deter and destruct” physical targets with the ability to “capture and secure” market share, financial assets and intellectual property? Countries with sizeable populations and large territories must adopt a comprehensive policy vision simultaneously linking the global, the regional, the national, the provincial and the local, so that claims over strategic resources in disputed areas can be resolved through rules-based mediation and peaceful negotiation.

There is need for more skilled and educationally trained military officers who are able to interface the planning of “military battles” over physical space with areas where “non-military battles” of ideas, of technological knowhow and management skills become increasingly prominent in determining a nation’s ability to survive in a “24/7” competitive world. In all Asia Pacific countries the “war-room”, the “board-room” and the “class-room” must interface continuously.

Only in this way can Indonesia’s future generation of military leaders and defense managers ensure that the shared responsibility within ASEAN to sustain multilateral cooperation, regional security and economic development will justly reward our shared vision of planning ahead in safeguarding peace and prosperity throughout the Asia Pacific region.

The writer is a former defense minister. The article is a summary of a presentation by the writer at the Centre for Defense and Strategic Studies, Canberra, Australia, on May 3, 2010.

Source: The Jakarta Post

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