A Public Lecture on Building a Regional Architecture in the Asia-Pacific By Dr. N. Hassan Wirajuda Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia At the International Institute of Strategic Studies London, the United Kingdom 29 January 2007
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure and privilege to address this distinguished audience that has been put together by the International Institute of Strategic Studies, the world’s leading authority on political-military conflict. I thank Dr. Tim Huxley for kindly inviting me to address this gathering and for the kind words with which he introduced me to you.
I am glad to be able to share with you an Indonesian perspective on the “Building of a Regional Architecture in the Asia-Pacific.” And I hope that my effort today will help you understand what is going on in the part of the world where I live. It is not an easy thing to do. Sometimes we, Asians, find it difficult to understand ourselves.
Let me start with an appeal to memory: if you look back across the years, to the time when the Cold War was at its height, most of what you see is the land mass of Europe. The central actors on the global scene at that time were the countries of Western and Eastern Europe.
It is true that some of the proxy wars of the Cold War were in Asia: the civil war in China, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and a few other smaller wars. But, the center of tension was in Europe, between NATO and the Warsaw Pact nations. The world feared that the global conflagration that would lead to a nuclear holocaust would be ignited in Europe, not so much in Asia.
Not being in the centre of the Cold War, the nations of East Asia did not develop any intergovernmental institution designed to deal with the possibility of major military conflicts.
But Europe, under the historic pressure of the Cold War, developed one such institution, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE). Established by the final act of the Helsinki Process in 1975, the Conference immediately tackled the issue of security, along with its two other aims, human rights as championed by Western Europe, and economic cooperation, as advocated by Eastern Europe.
The growth and institutional development of the CSCE was rapid by Asian standards, and although it did not accomplish much in concrete terms as a promoter of human rights and economic cooperation, it became a vital factor in the arms control movement. It became the chief instrument of détente between East and West.
Having become the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) after the end of the Cold War, it has grown to be an even more potent force for the prevention of military conflict. Corollary to the success of the CSCE/OSCE as the instrument of arms control and détente is its effective role as promoter of the ideological integration of Europe. This is evidenced by the agreement on the Charter of Paris of 1990.
The Charter formally ended the Cold War and unveiled the OSCE as a permanent Inter-Governmental Organization (IGO). But, these were formalizations of what were already realities. The real substance of the Charter is the adoption of what was in effect a common ideology of democracy, human rights and free market.
Some of the OSCE’s Eastern European members became so enthusiastic with this ideology that they tried to accomplish too much, too soon, in their endeavours at democratic reform, sometimes with disruptive results. But all is well that ends well: on the whole, Europe today is ideologically united in a way that was not possible in East Asia. And because of that, in spite of its cultural and religious diversity, Europe has the only the brightest prospects for internal peace on the long term.
Developments in Asia took an entirely different turn: we had that resembled the CSCE. At one time, we had the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) and the lesser known Central Asia Treaty Organization (CENTO), but these were military alliances involving a few countries and therefore not comparable to the CSCE, not even to the NATO.
These were expressly organized to contain the spread of communism in our part of the world, the kind of communism that China was actively exporting at that time. They were therefore factors of ideological contention rather than integration.
In August 1967, however, a different kind of organization was born in Southeast Asia, the Association of Southeast Asian Organization (ASEAN). It had only five founding members—Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand—but it envisioned its eventual growth to embrace all Southeast Asian countries regardless of ideology or economic system.
ASEAN was born perhaps at the most inauspicious time in the history of the region. The Vietnam War was fiercely raging and the Cultural Revolution in China was adversely impacting on Southeast Asia. Indonesia had just escaped from the jaws of a political chaos that was sparked by a failed coup d’etat in 1965, and its confrontation with Malaysia was still ongoing.
The Philippines, still in the heat of a territorial dispute with Malaysia, was also fending off a communist rebellion. Malaysia and Singapore had just broken their uneasy union with a great deal of rancour. And all of them were in the throes of economic underdevelopment. Hence, it was the fashion of the time to call our part of the world the Balkans of Asia.
Once isolated by several centuries of colonialism, the Southeast Asian countries were largely ignorant of one another and so had little trust for one another. It took a learning process of almost a decade before officials of ASEAN members could be at ease with one another. And for a longer time, there was an unwritten taboo on one topic: security matters.
From the very beginning, the founding members of ASEAN carefully ensured they would not be mistaken for a military alliance, especially by the other Southeast Asian nations that belonged to the communist bloc. Hence, the emphasis was on cooperation in the economic, social, cultural, technical, educational and other fields.
The Bangkok Declaration, the founding document of ASEAN, speaks of “peace and stability through abiding respect for justice and rule of law and adherence to the principles of the UN Charter.” But, nowhere does it mention cooperation in the field of security.
The Vietnam War ended in 1975 but Southeast Asia along with the rest of East Asia remained ideologically divided, and tensions remained over the ideological divide. There was no forum on political and security matters through which the threat of massive conflict in the region could be effectively addressed.
The taboo on security issues was lifted with the signing of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) by the ASEAN members at the Bali Summit of 1976; but still there was no dialogue on security.
Then in the 1980s, there arose a particular security issue that ASEAN had to address because it constituted a real and present danger to the stability of the region: the protracted conflict in Cambodia, a civil war compounded by the presence of Vietnamese troops in that country.
As ASEAN’s interlocutor, Indonesia organized the Jakarta Informal Meetings (JIM) attended by the parties to the Cambodian conflict and other interested parties. The meetings are well remembered for the cocktail parties that always preceded them. What followed was a long and tortuous process that eventually saw the active involvement of the United Nations and the five Permanent Members of the UN Security Council.
The process culminated in the signing of a peace agreement at the International Conference on Cambodia in Paris co-chaired by France and Indonesia in October 1991. A UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was established to oversee the peace process that led to the rebirth of the Kingdom of Cambodia.
With the conflict in Cambodia resolved peacefully through a process in which ASEAN played an important role, ASEAN now had the confidence to explore and address security issues.
Thus in July 1994, it established the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) where its foreign ministers can meet with their counterparts from countries that have an impact on the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region. The Forum’s activities are designed to build mutual confidence, undertake preventive diplomacy and eventually, as a much later development, “elaborate” on a dispute settlement mechanism.
Since then, ASEAN has expanded to include ten countries in Southeast Asia and the ARF has also greatly enlarged its membership. But until today, the ARF has not moved much beyond confidence building and preventive diplomacy—with little prospect of its getting into dispute settlement and conflict resolution. The arrested development of the ARF can at least be partly attributed to the fact that East Asia remains ideologically divided.
This does not mean that ASEAN has been paralyzed in the field of security cooperation. Within the Association, a regular dialogue is now taking place on security and military matters among the defence ministers. And there is today within ASEAN, and between ASEAN and its dialogue partners, a great deal of concrete initiatives in counter-terrorism, in the effort to keep the strategic Strait of Malacca safe, in fighting non-traditional security threats like trans-national crime and contagious diseases, and in the management and mitigation of natural disasters.
There is also a great deal of shaping and sharing of norms going on—which contributes to the security of the region. For example, as a consequence of the ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea of 1992, ASEAN and China eventually agreed on a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea in which all the rival claimants to all or parts of the South China Sea committed themselves to refraining from any actions that might increase tension among them.
Some parties involved in territorial or jurisdictional disputes in the area are even jointly undertaking development ventures such as oil and gas exploration in the area. These initiatives are the fruits of an informal Workshop on Managing Potential Conflict in the South China Sea that Indonesia sponsored annually for more than a decade.
At the same time, ASEAN has a tool of preventive diplomacy with a wider scope in its Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in Southeast Asia. It serves as a code of conduct for relations among the ASEAN members and between ASEAN and external powers: signatories and acceding states renounce the use of force and bind themselves to the peaceful settlement of disputes.
This, of course, is a notion enshrined long ago in the UN Charter. Nevertheless, it is a great source of reassurance and a fresh affirmation of something vital but often taken for granted. Dialogue Partners that have acceded to the TAC include China, South Korea, Japan, India, Australia, New Zealand, and more recently Russia, France and Timor Leste.
There is an evolution going on in our part of the world, the shaping of a new architecture of the Asian-Pacific region that is driven by ASEAN’s ceaseless networking. That evolution may be clearly discerned in the processes of ASEAN plus Three and the East Asian Summit.
The ASEAN plus Three processes, established in 1997 in response to the Asian financial crisis, gained so much momentum that in 2004, the idea of an East Asian Summit was launched by ASEAN. Initially, the East Asian Summit would be limited to the participants of the ASEAN plus Three processes, as they represent the East Asian geographic area. But later Indonesia, with the support of Singapore, pushed for a more inclusive idea of East Asia, one that embraced India, Australia and New Zealand.
Thus ASEAN redefined the notion of East Asia to mean not just a geographical, racial and cultural entity—but an entity formed over many years of habitual and intensive consultation and cooperation between ASEAN and its dialogue partners. All of the non-ASEAN participants had been dialogue partners for at least ten years, with some having been dialogue partners for more three decades.
Russia was keen to join the EAS; but it was difficult to include Russia while the United States remained outside the Summit. There is no denying that the United States is a Pacific power that has maintained over many decades active economic and security engagement with the countries of East Asia.
As it is, the EAS brings together the most dynamic group of economies in the world today—with China leading the pack in terms of economic growth. The rise of China as a world power has been phenomenal—largely the result of economic reforms launched three decades ago. Ten to 15 years from now China could overtake Japan as an economic power.
Already a nuclear power with a military capability in outer space and building a blue water navy, China has doubled military spending in a span of four years. It is therefore important that China remains firmly engaged with forums that are decidedly constructive in orientation, such as the ARF, ASEAN plus Three and the EAS.
On the other hand, Japan, which remains the world’s second largest economy, is reviewing its pacifist post-World War II constitution.
Under pressure by the US to shoulder more of the cost of its own defence, and getting more uncertain of the US nuclear umbrella as US forces redeploy out of Japan, with a leadership being taken over by a younger generation that has no memory of the Second World War, and living next door to a North Korea that has a penchant for testing missiles and nuclear devices—Japan is ripe for a break from its long-held pacifist posture.
By itself, Japan could go on an arms race with China. But deeply engaged with ASEAN, Japan could instead contribute more to the security of the region—especially the strategic sea-lanes of Southeast Asia.
Two other participants to the EAS, South Korea and India are world leaders in technology, with South Korea already classified as a developed country and India being fancied as in a position to rival China’s economic dynamism in a few years’ time. But in spite of their respective economic clout and the global prestige that they now enjoy, none of these four great nations are in a position to take the helm of the EAS process.
They must depend on ASEAN to give political coherence to the process. Indeed, they will find it hard to work together or go anywhere together without ASEAN in the driver’s seat. That is ASEAN’s unique contribution to the integration of the East Asian region: cementing together valuable arrangements, building bridges.
In the future, however, ASEAN cannot simply keep on relying on the inability of its Northeast Asian partners to work directly with one another. It must begin to earn its hold on the driver’s seat on the basis of its own intrinsic merit. That is why it must transform itself into an ASEAN Community resting on the three pillars of a Security Community, an Economic Community and a Socio-cultural Community. That is why earlier this month, ASEAN Leaders decided in Cebu, Philippines that the full integration of ASEAN be accelerated so that it is attained in 2015 instead of 2020 as earlier agreed on at their ninth summit in Bali, Indonesia, in 2003.
This means that the development gap between members of ASEAN must be closed. This means that disputes shunted aside under the category of contentious issues must finally be addressed. And this means that the ASEAN region should no longer be ideologically divided. We are pursuing various initiatives today to promote regional security—but these will never be sufficient in the long run unless we ASEAN members achieve political cohesiveness.
For several decades, our economic cooperation was the main force that united us and gave us a sense of a common purpose and a common destiny. It blurred the ideological divisions. The communist countries maintained their ideology but shifted from central planning to free market, from attempts at autarky to opening up their economies to foreign investors. But in the long run that, too, will not be enough.
To us in Indonesia, it is important that there be political cohesiveness among ASEAN members, with all of us subscribing to the fundamental values of democracy, human rights and the free market. We cannot become the ASEAN Community that we aspire to be if we cannot share these fundamental values.
Maybe we cannot achieve that tomorrow or next year. But I hope we can achieve it by 2015, the target year for ASEAN’s full integration. It helps that a year or so from now, we will adopt an ASEAN Charter based on these shared values, norms, ideals and principles.
Various bilateral free trade areas are being negotiated between participants of the East Asia Summit. I like to think that these are the building blocks to an eventual East Asia Free Trade Area—that will be established perhaps a decade from now. By then, the new regional architecture will be fully unveiled, with ASEAN on the driver’s seat on its own merits.
Meanwhile, the individual members of the ASEAN family members must work to enhance their own national resilience. For instance, Myanmar must make good on its avowals of democratization and respect for human rights.
For its part, Indonesia will continue to fine-tune its democratic institutions and processes. Working closely with our neighbours, we will consolidate our gains in the fight against terrorism, trans-national crime and corruption. And we will now translate our excellent macroeconomic position into more jobs and social benefits for our people.
And, of course, in the next two years, we will try to contribute as best as we can to global peace and security as a non-permanent member on the UN Security Council, mindful of our role as the world’s third largest democracy and the country with the largest Muslim population.
That is how we in ASEAN build: block by patient block. That is how we proceed: at a pace that is equally comfortable to our fastest and slowest members. And that is how we will achieve ideological integration—by a different route and at a different pace from that of the European Union—but we will arrive at a similar destination. A similar destiny.
I thank you.