FPCI Public Discussion on Indo-Pacific as a Concept for Regional Architecture
(Jakarta, 7th Feb 2018) Recently, the issue of Indo-Pacific had been revisited following the visit by United States President Trump to Asia with the use of “Indo-Pacific” term instead of Asia. Came to the discussion, Dr. Marty Natalegawa as former Foreign Minister of Indonesia who was willing to share his thought about what will happen and how does Asia deal with the Indo-Pacific issue at the Bengkel Diplomasi, Wednesday 7th 2018.
The notion of Indo-Pacific has recently acquired public attention. Dr. Marty Natalegawa delivered at least three critical points including the thought that Indo-Pacific as a talk that has been existed within the East Asia Summit, the need of geopolitical underpinning and to externalize the ASEAN and East Asia Summit potentials as Indo-Pacific primary vehicle, and also the TAC relations which is not only among the ASEAN states.
The first point is in terms of context and background, Indo-Pacific perspective is not a new phenomenon as far as Indonesia has concerned and processed it since early 2002 that Indonesia was deliberately and purposely pursued into its logical conclusion. From the very beginning, the East Asia Summit has always been an Indo-Pacific, in this outlook. It continued by the development of East Asia process and Indonesia in 2015.
Second, the Indo-Pacific is nearly a geographic description, it simply described as the geography. People can simply speak of Indo-Pacific as a region, continue with the need for cooperation between this and that organization, synergizing ASEAN process with IORA, speaking of an open, transparent, inclusive and free Indo-Pacific. Dr. Marty thought that we have to go beyond describing geography. He added that people often missing the geopolitical argument.
From Dr. Marty’s view, in this term ASEAN; less can be more. “We have to identify what are the nature of the challenges in our region, what are the nature of the opportunities in our region,” he stated. He also noticed three problems in the region: trust deficit, territorial disputes and managing change. Dr. Marty suggested that ASEAN meeting can be held more often to help identifying the problems of the region and global issues, then seek for the solutions. He delivered two possibilities ASEAN could build; a crisis management mechanism to manage peace and security, then a confidence and trust building for the TAC for the East Asia Summit.
This time, Indo-Pacific should be taken seriously as it has been revisited once again in 21st outlook rather than 20th century. We need to have geopolitical underpinning and someone really had to be put their thinking cap on and suggest something. Otherwise it will be a hollow debate procedural in nature, ceremonial probably as well.