Jakarta. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Tuesday (09/01) that Indonesia aims to contribute to develop policy architecture in the Indo-Pacific region by fostering strategic cooperation and dialogues among neighboring countries to ensure peace and stability amid geopolitical changes.
"Together with Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations], Indonesia will continue to contribute in a strong positive way in the Indo-Pacific [region]," Retno said during her annual press statement at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Jakarta.
The minister emphasized that cooperation must not be based on suspicion or a perception of threat. Indonesia is looking to expand its foreign policy focus beyond Southeast Asia, with an emphasis on the Indo-Pacific region deriving from the potential of "proxy conflicts" in different parts of the world, as well as security and political instability on the global level.
Recent years have seen the region facing increased tension in geopolitical issues, including territorial disputes in the South China Sea and the nuclear threat on the Korean Peninsula.
Asean must be a major player in developing Indo-Pacific’s regional policy architecture, Retno said, with partnerships cultivated through confidence-building efforts and mutually-beneficial cooperation, and be based on a habit of dialogue.
The vision for a strong and dependable regional policy architecture, according to Retno, will be developed through a "building blocks approach."
That approach, according to the minister, includes bilateral and plurilateral cooperation across strategic areas, such as security, maritime, trade and investment, strengthening cooperation within the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and creating various linkages through Asean-led mechanisms.
Cooperation in the 21-member IORA, Retno said, will be based on the Jakarta Concord and the organization’s 2017-2021 action plan, which seeks to create new centers of growth that will contribute to an ecosystem of peace, stability and prosperity in the Indian Ocean.
IORA was established in March 1997. Indonesia was chair of the intergovernmental organization between 2015-2017 and hosted the first IORA Summit last March.
During her speech, Retno also said that Indo-Pacific cooperation must be free, open, inclusive and comprehensive, while also providing long-term benefits for and based on joint commitments of all countries in the region. "We need to keep on developing partnership to respect international law and multilateralism. Partnerships should be strengthened to prevent 'the mighty takes all'," Retno said.
On multiple occasions last year, the foreign minister made repeated remarks on the vulnerability of the Southeast Asian region to be an area of proxy fights between major powers, and touched on the importance of Asean unity to tackle emerging issues.
Strengthening Asean unity and centrality is one of Indonesia’s foreign policy focus in 2018.
In December, Indonesian ambassador to the United Kingdom, Ireland and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), Rizal Sukma, mentioned that the rise of China and India, and a new focus on East Asia, will "transform [the region] into a stage where the world's major powers will compete for influence" — driven by each country's strategic interests.