Today (07/4), two ASEAN Studies Center’s Researchers, Dedi Dinarto and Dio Herdiawan Tobing took part in Roundtable discussion with delegates from the U.S. Embassy and National War College. The meeting aimed to overview the development of current Indonesia’s foreign policy and its impact towards the South China Sea, contemporary issues in Indonesia’s domestic politics, and the rise of religious extremism and political Islam in Indonesia.
The meeting was opened by debating whether U.S. loses its hegemonic control over the world or other hegemonic powers are rising to shape a new global order. Dr. Nur Rachmat Yuliantoro, Head of the Department of International Relations UGM stated that, “The U.S. remains as the world’s hegemony and not losing its influence. However, it should be noted that more countries like China, Russia, India, Indonesia, and Brazil are rising in terms of economy and military.”
Afterwards, the Head of Office of International Affairs UGM, I Made Andi Arsana, Ph.D, explored the international law approaches towards the South China Sea dispute. He argued that it is very difficult for the international community to find solution towards this issue when China rebels towards UNCLOS. For him, an alternative method to understand China’s logic is necessary to engage with them.
The session was then followed by discussing Indonesia’s foreign policy to the South China Sea dispute. Dio Herdiawan Tobing, ASC’s Research Manager addressed, “It is a very difficult moment for Indonesia because ASEAN is still the cornerstone of Indonesia’s foreign policy, and yet the regional organization could not produce any solution for the South China Sea issue”. For him, the fragmentation of ASEAN’s member states’ stance and consensus-building preference in the decision-making process led to stagnation, not only in the case of South China Sea but also in other cases such as the Rohingya.
Commander Timothy Barelli, U.S. Coast Guard and student at the National War College responded, “Then what is Indonesia’s practical solution in time of ASEAN’s stagnation?”
Dio argued further, “It seems like Indonesia prefers more on bilateralism and is moving away from ASEAN. It can be seen from the establishment of a new directorate for Southeast Asian affairs in Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry while it already has Directorate-General for ASEAN Cooperation.”
ASC’s Researcher, Dedi Dinarto, expressed then, “It seems that Indonesia plays a kind of hedging-style diplomacy, where it did not pose any active role in ASEAN, but remains to consider ASEAN as important for its foreign policy.” He argued that Indonesia lacks initiative after the failure of joint communique on the case of South China Sea in ASEAN Summit 2016 hosted by Lao PDR. In contrast, back to the foremost failure of ASEAN Summit in Cambodia, former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa conducted a shuttle diplomacy to ensure extra-institutional approach working on the South China Sea crisis. In the era of President Joko Widodo, his foreign policy approach is much more pragmatic, rather than seeking more either in bilateral or multilateral engagement. If certain political or security issues will exacerbate the stability of Indonesian national sovereignty, thus it is unlikely to be discussed and prioritized.
Lastly, the discussion was closed by handing over the souvenirs from the representatives of U.S. embassy, Mr. Taylor Fincher and National War College, Dr. Bradley McAllister and Ambassador Piper Campbell to Dr. Paripurna P. Sugarda, LL.M, UGM’s Vice Rector of Cooperation and Alumni.