Tag Archive | "ASEAN"

Indonesia A Linchpin For The ASEAN Wheel

These are challenging times for the global economy and for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which met over the weekend in Thailand. Forged during the turbulent 1960s, ASEAN has evolved from a group that sought to restore political stability in the region to an economic bloc, and now into a major player on the global geopolitical stage. The organization has also grown from the original six members to 10, with the inclusion of the three Indochina countries and Burma.

More important, ASEAN now has as dialogue partners all the major economies in the East Asia region plus India. This is a powerful grouping representing half the world’s population and some of the world’s fastest growing economies. Indonesia has long been seen as the natural leader of ASEAN, given its size and central position in Southeast Asia. When Indonesia has been strong and economically robust, ASEAN has been strong and forceful. Conversely, when Indonesia struggled to overcome its internal problems following the 1997 financial crisis, ASEAN too suffered. Under President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Indonesia is once again asserting its leadership within ASEAN and, as a member of the Group of 20, on the broader global stage.

It comes as no surprise that Yudhoyono’s address at the summit touched on Asia’s role in overcoming the global financial crisis and a new proposal for the foreign ministers of the 16 East Asian countries to meet ahead of the G-20 summit. Yudhoyono’s ability to crystallize the issues illustrates his statesmanship and leadership qualities.

He has elevated Indonesia onto the global stage and, under his presidency, Indonesia is displaying the hallmarks of a country that not only has the largest and fastest-growing economy in the region, but of a nation that has the capacity to set agendas that will take the association forward. On his first overseas trip after being inaugurated to a second five-year term, the president called on all East Asian countries to maintain real growth and to push ahead with resolving the deadlock in World Trade Organization talks.

As the only ASEAN member to be part of the G-20, Indonesia has both a duty and a responsibility to represent the organization there, at what is viewed as the most influential global grouping, even ahead of the Group of Seven industrialized nations. But as Indonesia rises, so does ASEAN.

The new emerging world order is still being defined, but ASEAN’s role will remain central in shaping this order. As Indonesia’s new foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, noted, it’s difficult to imagine how Indonesia can influence the G-20 if it does not play an influential role within ASEAN.
Source: The Jakarta Globe

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A Good News For ASEAN

Reconstructing ASEAN: Challenges for the 21st Century

Ten years ago, Southeast Asia was still reeling from the Asian financial crisis of 1997, with millions of people impoverished, President Soeharto driven out of office, and ASEAN economies wrecked. The East Asian Miracle had been jolted, Asian values discredited, the ASEAN Way undermined. ASEAN’s reputation as a cohesive regional organization was in tatters.

There were bilateral tensions between Singapore and Malaysia and Singapore and Indonesia, as well as between Indonesia and Malaysia. Indonesia was still undergoing a political revolution, its future uncertain, both as a nation state and as a leading member of ASEAN. Questions were being asked about ASEAN’s future without Soeharto.

This was also a period where a series of transnational threats begun to challenge Southeast Asia. Aside from the financial crisis, there was the Bali terrorist bombings in 2002 and 2003, the SARS pandemic in 2003, the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004. These were challenges that came at short notice and respected no national boundaries.

Fast forward to ten years later, in 2009. There have been many changes, but some continuities. There is a global (not regional) financial crisis, a crisis that cannot be blamed on ASEAN, but on Western countries, especially the US. Indonesia has not only survived as a nation, but a few days ago proved itself to have become a consolidated democracy. It is no longer a “nation-in-waiting” but an “nation achieving”.

ASEAN has been reconstructed, having adopted the goal of becoming a community of three pillars (ASEAN Economic Community, ASEAN Political-Security Community, and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community). It had adopted a Charter in 2007. Jakarta is still engaged in ASEAN. Many outside powers have now appointed ambassadors to ASEAN.

So why worry about the future of ASEAN? Despite the positive developments since 1999, ASEAN faces new challenges, and some old problems persist. Let me identify several of those, both at global and regional levels.

There is the inexorable rise of China and India, to an extent not foreseen in 1999. ASEAN is a group of weak states who could shape regional order when China was down and India was out. As these two powers, which have historically shaped Southeast Asia’s destiny, reassert themselves, what is the fate of ASEAN?

More important is the decline of the US. 1999 was still the “unipolar moment”. 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq had not happened. The subprime crisis in the US leading to the collapse of major banks had not happened. While the US did not create ASEAN, it had US had provided a strategic umbrella which had underpinned ASEAN’s growth. What is the future of ASEAN in the post-American world?

Global institutional arrangements are in a deep flux, with the G-8 being challenged by various new formulations, G-20, G-5, G-2, but no G-1. The future world order is variously described as “multipolar”, “non-polar”, “post-American” “apolar”, but there is no agreement on how it will evolve.

At the regional level, the challenges to ASEAN include the unresolved political situation in Myanmar, the bilateral dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over Preah Vihar temple complex, and the Indonesia-Malaysia dispute over Amblat.

Added to this is the internal instability in several ASEAN member states. While Indonesia is good news, Thailand, an old stalwart of ASEAN, is not. And there are question marks over the political stability and succession in Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore.

Moreover, there have been new transnational issues, such as the global financial crisis, the H1N1 flu, Cyclone Nargis that devastated Myanmar in 2008. Who knows what comes next. In conclusion, it can be argued that while ASEAN survived the crisis of 1997 and moved on, or even moved forward, its progress cannot be taken for granted. There are some dark clouds.

ASEAN must do two things to remain relevant. First, it must keep its promises by implementing the Blueprint for an ASEAN community faithfully. The Blueprint and the ASEAN Charter contain some great ideas, but ideas are useless unless implemented. ASEAN should improved compliance of its members to its new provisions, rules and mechanisms.

Second, ASEAN must make new efforts to deal with new challenges. We live in an era of rapid and unexpected developments. ASEAN should seize the moment or fade away as a new regional and global leadership takes over.

Who knows, Indonesia might get so disillusioned with ASEAN that it might dump the ASEAN-10 in favor of the G-20 to which it also belongs? Above all, ASEAN must maintain intra-mural unity in dealing with the great powers.


Amitav Acharya ,  Jakarta   Post

The writer is Professor of International Relations at American University in Washington, DC. This article is adapted from his speech to the inaugural ASEAN Secretariat Policy Forum, held on July 14, 2009 in Jakarta, where ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan also launched the 2nd edition of his book: Constructing a Security Community in Southeast Asia: ASEAN and the Problem of Regional Order (Routledge, 2001, 2009).

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Indonesia May Be Outgrowing ASEAN

Indonesia may be outgrowing ASEAN

By Barry Wain for The Straits Times

This week’s Indonesian election was more than a personal triumph for the winner, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Consolidation one of the most remarkable political transformation in history, the election was a victory for the entire nation, the fourth most populous on the planet.

In the space of a decade, following the overthrow of President Suharto, Indonesia has displaced a military dictatorship and embraced democracy. It has freed the press, sent the military back to the barracks and conducted three successful general elections in eight years.

While decentralising power from Jakarta to the provinces, Indonesia has ended a 30-year civil war in Aceh, quelled religiously inspired violence and drastically curbed Islamic terrorism. Despite the global financial crisis, the economy hp expected to grow 3 to 4 per cent this year, making Indonesia – along with China and India – one of the few major economies likely to expand for the year.

The old image of Indonesia as a state in constant turmoil and staggering from one calamity to another is outdated. In the words me specialists Andrew MacIntyre and Douglas Ramage: “Indonesia today is a stable, competitive democracy, playing a constructive role in world affairs.”

How Indonesia chooses to play that role could affect the future of South-east Asia. As Jakarta’s neighbours are learning, it is often harder to deal with a vibrant democracy than a quiescent dictatorship.

To truly appreciate the overseas accolades being heaped on Indonesia, one should weigh how far the country has come in such a short time. Suharto’s downfall unleashed powerful ethnic, religious, separatist and other forces that uprooted more than one million people. After East Timor obtained independence in 1999, Aceh and Papua’s on opposite flanks me the sprawling country, renewed their efforts to secede.

There was worry that Indonesia might disintegrate like Yugoslavia. Singapore, Malaysia and other nearby countries learnt to live with uncertainty, fearful of an uncontrolled influx of Indonesian refugees.

Much of the credit for Indonesia’s resurgence goes to President Yudhoyono, who has a personal reputation for probity. Despite his indecisiveness, Indonesians appreciated his efforts to combat corruption, control state spending and compensate the poor for rising fuel prices with cash handouts.

The international community has also welcomed and rewarded his performance. United States President Barack Obama’s administration has held up Indonesia as a model for the Muslim world. It was included in the Group of 20 summit in Washington last year that discussed global economic and financial issues. And a Morgan Stanley report last month suggested that Indonesia should be added to the BRIC group me fast-growing emerging markets, which currently consists of Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Ironically, however, Indonesia’s success raises the possibility of another round of uncertainty in the region, centred on how the country might deploy its new-found influence and prestige.

As its steadily lifts the living standards of its 240 million people, Indonesia logically is trying to resume de facto leadership of Asean, forsaken in the chaos of Suharto’s collapse. Yet, as a beacon of democracy, revitalised by its transformation and keen to share its new-found democratic values, Indonesia is meeting resistance from within Asean.

For example, officials trying to draft the terms me reference for an Asean human rights body have been split for months. Indonesia has spearheaded an attempt to include provisions aimed at protecting the human rights of all 575 million Asean citizens, in line with international norms. That puts Jakarta on the side of regional civil society organisations, but pits against a number me fellow Asean members. Since Asean works by consensus, the lowest-common-denominator stance is likely to prevail.

Indonesia is immensely proud of its newly acquired democratic credentials and has no intention of hiding them. Indeed, the government is expending considerable resources to rebrand itself.

As Mr Umar Hadi, the foreign director for public diplomacy at the Foreign Ministry, told a journalist recently: “This is no longer Suharto’s Indonesia. It is a new Indonesia.”

How long Indonesia is prepared to tolerate being rebuffed in Asean by authoritarian governments is unknown. Already, there are signs that some Indonesians are growing impatient.

Dr Rizal Sukma, executive director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, is urging Indonesia to break with Asean on some issues, especially he they concern fundamental questions me “freedom and human rights”. Indonesia, he says, “needs to begin formulating a post-Asean foreign policy”.

If that view takes hold in Indonesia, Asean will need to take a heed.

Barry Wain is writer-in-residence at the Institute me Southeast Asian Studies.

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No Worry For The Next SEA Games

The nearest SEA Games will be hosted by Laos, a new ASEAN member, in December 2009, if I am not mistaken. I met a Filipino in a food stall, and she said that she has lost hope for Philippines team since it became the winner of SEA Games 2005, their first and last winning. Well, I told her to keep up her dream, and never lose hope; Philippines is a great nation with people with great talents.

What about Indonesia?

Indonesia (and Philippines) only joined the SEA games in 1977 (the 1st Sea Games was in 1959 in Bangkok), however, Indonesia already copped the overall championship 9 times. Since its debut in 1977, Indonesia topped the ranks until 1985 (when it lost to Thailand), 1987-1993, and 1997 was the last time Indonesia gained the most medals. It is an extraordinary achievement for relatively a ”new comer” in 16 events, . While Thailand ranks #2 (4 times champion) in 25 events.

So, no worry!

Indonesia 9 Times 2 Times 3 Times
Thailand 4 Times 9 Times 3 Times
Malaysia 1 Time 3 Times 1 Time
Philippines 1 Time 2 Times 6 Times
Vietnam 1 Time - 2 Times
Myanmar - - 1 Time
Brunei - - -
Cambodia - - -
Laos - - -

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