The 64th meeting of "Diplomatic Roundtable" on "Is Indonesia Outgrowing ASEAN?. " Held

JFIR and its two sister organizations, the Global Forum of Japan and the Council on East Asian Community, taking advantage of an occasion of a visit to Japan of a prominent person on international and other affairs, monthly organize a "Diplomatic Roundtable" meeting, which is an informal gathering of members of the three organizations for a frank exchange of views and opinions with the visiting guest. The 64th "Diplomatic Roundtable" was held on 1st December 2010 on the topic of "Is Indonesia Outgrowing ASEAN?." An outline of the presentation by Rizal SUKMA, Executive Director at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, was as follows:

The international order has undergone significant change since the turn of the century. While the focal arena of international fora has been dominated by the G-8 framework, the G-20 framework, which includes both developed and developing countries, has shown rapid development. Being a member of the G-20, Indonesia has a prime opportunity to strategically change its position in international relations. In terms of Indonesia's national interests, it begs the question whether the current foreign policy format, which still treats Southeast Asia and ASEAN as the first concentric circle, is still adequate. So far, Indonesia's position in ASEAN has been marginalized compared to its power and capability, due to the fact that, for a long time, Indonesia's economy was less developed and its governance was non-democratic. However, Indonesia does not need to be marginalized anymore because its economy is now developed and governance successfully transited from military rule to democracy. Indonesia should make a shift in foreign policy, including Indonesia-ASEAN relations. President Yudhoyono and Foreign Minister Wirayuda are required to reinforce the spirit of free and active foreign policy as envisioned by the founders of the Republic.

Indonesia needs to redefine its foreign policy framework, which is currently dependent on ASEAN. The dimensions in the new foreign policy framework are strategic necessity and shared values. In terms of strategic necessity, countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, Australia, China, India, the United States, and the G-20 are important, and the relations with these countries should form the first concentric circle of foreign relations. Indonesia should enhance its relations with democratic countries due to shared values in democracy. As a moderate Muslim-majority nation, Indonesia should play a more active role in the Muslim world. Indonesia needs to balance its commitment to multilateralism with that of bilateralism. Within ASEAN, Indonesia should deepen its friendly relations with Malaysia and Singapore for strategic necessity, and its relations with Thailand and the Philippines for shared values in democracy. Indonesia also needs to get into lines with other countries about Burma's democratization. Outside ASEAN, Indonesia needs to strengthen its partnership with global or regional major powers, such as ASEAN+3 (Japan, China, South Korea) or the U.S., India, and Australia. Indonesia should also shift its international position closer to the Asia-Pacific region. By doing so, its foreign policy horizon and new opportunities would be expanded to satisfy Indonesia's national interests. This further allows Indonesia to actively shape the emerging regional architecture. Inside ASEAN, Indonesia has been deprived of initiatives by other member-states and always marginalised. The East Asia Summit (EAS) is, in this regard, the object with which Indonesia should be actively involved.

Nevertheless, the above does not mean that Indonesia simply needs to abandon ASEAN. Indonesia needs to appreciate what ASEAN really is, namely, as an organisation capable of preserving Southeast Asian regional stability and security by maintaining good inter-state relations among member states. But Indonesia should by no means sacrifice its national interests by asking ASEAN for what it is not capable of. Beyond ASEAN, it is important that Indonesia should utilize new regional frameworks such as the G-20 and APEC, and should relativise its relations with ASEAN. By doing so, a democratic Indonesia can strengthen its relevance amid rapid strategic and geopolitical transformation in the Asia-Pacific region. This is the Yudhoyono administration's foreign policy goal.


The Japan Forum on International Relations (JFIR)