Press Release “Understanding Indo-Pacific and The Strategic Role of ASEAN”

Yogyakarta ,Thursday, September 13th, 2018

Global Engagement Office (GEO) in collaboration with The Habibie Center held a panel discussion with the title of  “Peran Strategis ASEAN di Indo – Pacific” or Strategic Role of ASEAN in Indo – Pacific at room BA 208 located in FISIPOL UGM. The panelists for this discussion consist of researchers from ASEAN Studies Center (ASC) and The Habibie Center. Representing ASC UGM, Dr. Dafri Agussalim, as the Director of ASC UGM while Alexander Chandra and Ibrahim Almuttaqi representing Habibie Center specifically on ASEAN Studies Program. Acting as a moderator Muhammad Rum, S.I.P., I.M.A.S.

Opening the discussion, Ibrahim was addressing the issue of ASEAN Centrality and its implication with the issue of Indo – Pacific region. The idea of Indo – Pacific is not entirely a novel idea. It was initially addressed by Indonesia’s former Indonesian foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa in 2013 through Indonesia’s initiative, Indo – Pacific Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation. However, there is no clear follow up for this initiative due to the change of administration in Indonesia. The discussion regarding Indo – Pacific was reappointed following the visit of Donald Trump to the region. Ibrahim explained, the Indo – Pacific region is potentially be a land of contestation whereby various states with different aims mark their present in the issue such as China, India, Australia. Continuing the argument, Ibrahim mentioned the role of Indonesia in the issue. The country has pushed for an ASEAN-led regional architecture, strong supporter of ASEAN +3, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and East Asian Summit (EAM). Furthermore, through Joko Widodo proposal to take ownership in ‘Indo – Pacific’ concept during 32nd ASEAN Summit in April 2018, it further delineates Indonesia’s readiness to participate and carry ASEAN to be the honest broker that it is.

Continuing the points mentioned previously, Dr. Dafri discussed the issue of ASEAN Centrality and how it transcends to ASEAN-nations behavior with its implication to Indo – Pacific issue. He explained the possible interests of various states in Indo – Pacific region such as Australia’s lack of ‘international exposure’ in international politics, India’s need of international political arena as an emerging power, China’s political power expansion, and US counter power to China’s initiatives. Knowing the existent of these external interests, he emphasis on ASEAN probability of disintegration potentially caused by Indo – Pacific contestation. As reflected by the recent case that was involving many ASEAN States, The South China Sea dispute, ASEAN nations does not have the common stance in solving the issue which leads to protraction therefore, if ASEAN nations does not have a common stance in the issue, it may harm the harmony of ASEAN Member states. Dr. Dafri also mentioned, ASEAN Centrality status that supposed to be adhered by all ASEAN Member States usually neglected by member states which escalate concern over ASEAN Member States status on Indo – Pacific region.

On the last speaker, Chandra mentioned potential benefits and hampering points of Indo – Pacific status to ASEAN. The region normatively is a very potential area for economic growth and trade however, trade and investment are relatively low within the area. Furthermore, the geopolitical condition of the region is more supportive towards the enhancement of economic benefits. In relation to aforementioned India’s attempt to involve on the issue, he was mentioning the lessening cooperation between ASEAN and India which was promoted as south-south relation. This statement is important because if ASEAN engagement with India is maintained, easiness of cooperation regarding Indo – Pacific issue can be attained. Regarding hampering points, lack of physical management, the present of US in the dispute which brought its own interests and agendas, the potential of changes after election years that are going to happen throughout ASEAN member states countries and Indonesia, relevancy of Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in this matter are the things that may increase the tension within Indo- Pacific region. The discussion ended with discussion between panelists with audiences.

In conclusion, the region of Indo – Pacific is very intertwined with the engagement of ASEAN within the issue acting as an honest broker however, in doing so, ASEAN might face the potential of disintegration because it is assured that member states of ASEAN might not have common perception in dealing with the matter. Besides, Indonesia’s attempt to overreach the matter and took control of the dispute have started yet, result still inconclusive thus, maintaining track of the issue and keeping the status of ‘player’ in the issue is crucially important. 


Written by Chitito Audithio,  research intern at the ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada