Public Lecture on Indonesia and the Regional Integration Process in East Asia At Deutsche Gesselschaft fur Auswartige Politik (The German Council on Foreign Relations) 14 March 2007


Public Lecture on Indonesia and the Regional Integration Process in East Asia
By Dr. N. Hassan Wirajuda
Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia
At Deutsche Gesselschaft fur Auswartige Politik (The German Council on Foreign Relations)
14 March 2007

Mr. Chairman,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my privilege to have the opportunity to speak before this distinguished audience that has been put together by the German Council on Foreign Relations, one of the world’s leading think tanks on international politics.

I wish to take this opportunity to share with you some thoughts regarding “Indonesia and the Regional Integration Process in East Asia.” And I hope that my effort today will refresh your understanding about my country and the part of the world where Indonesia is located.

In my opinion, regional process towards closer integration in East Asia is inseparable with the evolution of an organization that was born in Southeast Asia in August 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Organization (ASEAN). Envisioned to eventually embrace all Southeast Asian countries regardless of ideology or economic system, ASEAN was born at the inauspicious time in the history of the region. The Vietnam War was fiercely raging, the Cultural Revolution in China was adversely impacting, Indonesia had just escaped from political chaos, and its confrontation with Malaysia was still ongoing. It was the fashion of the time to call this part of the world the Balkans of Asia.

So, different from the history of Europe which since the Cold War era developed the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) that tackled the issue of security, human rights and economic cooperation and later grown to become the Organization on Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that has an even more potent force for the prevention of military conflict.

The nations of East Asia - not being in the centre of the Cold War - did not develop any intergovernmental institution designed to deal with the possibility of major conflicts. 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.

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 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. Then in the 1980s, there arose a particular security issue that ASEAN had to address: the protracted conflict in Cambodia.

As ASEAN’s interlocutor, Indonesia organized the Jakarta Informal Meetings (JIM) attended by the parties to the conflict and other interested parties. What followed was the United Nations’ process that culminated in the signing of the 1991 Paris peace agreement 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 defense 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 transnational 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 Lester.

There is an evolution going on in our part of the world, the shaping of a new architecture of the East Asia 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.

In 1997, the ASEAN plus Three process was established as a response to the Asian Financial Crisis. ASEAN PLUS THREE also serves as an ideal platform for East Asia countries to further strengthen cooperation at various levels and various areas, particularly in economic and social, political, and other fields.

The ASEAN plus Three process 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 process, 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. In its 2006 East Asia Update, World Bank reported that growth registered by East Asia countries is likely to reach around 8 percent in 2006. It also suggests that the number of people in East Asia living on or below $2 a day will fall to around 550 million (or 29.3 percent of the population in 2006. This 1.5 percentage point drop in the past years means that around 25 million people in the region have emerged from severe poverty.

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 Sociocultural Community. That is why in January, 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. By this decision, ASEAN countries have shown their commitment to excellence in paving an ideal regional integration by tuning to the formation of an ASEAN Charter that will provide a legal personality for ASEAN. The Charter could further facilitate ASEAN’s efforts to realize the ASEAN Community.

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. And working closely with our neighbours, we will never cease to create significant contributions on various issues and problems in the East Asia landscape.

Indonesia has taken initiatives in developing bilateral regional and international cooperation to strengthen the capacity and capability of countries in fighting terrorism such as the establishment of the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Cooperation (JCLEC). Earlier this month, Indonesia and Australia has co-organized the Sub-regional Conference on Counter-Terrorism in Jakarta, Indonesia, in the aim of strengthening counter-terrorism cooperation in the sub region. The conference was attended by foreign ministers, senior officials, and Police chiefs from six countries: Indonesia and Australia as co-chairs, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore. We also attach great importance to empowering the Moslem moderate through various activities of interfaith dialogues in the regional forum as well as other forums.

In response to the rapid change of climate that gives serious threat for the global environment including to East Asian countries, we perceive the urgent need for the international community to work together especially in the frame of cooperation and coordination within the ASEAN and East Asia countries, regarding disaster mitigations which shall also include standby force. On 6-7 March, the Government of Indonesia has the honour to host the Preparatory Meeting for the 3rd Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Environment Ministers' Meeting. The ASEM Environment Ministers' Meeting itself will be convened in Denmark on 24-26 April 2007. The delegates discussed major environmental issues in the regions that comprise the issues of climate change challenges, sustainable energy, forestry and loss of biodiversity, climate-friendly technology/de-carbonization technology, and cooperation as well as partnership between Asia and Europe to address environmental challenges.

On the previous 6th ASEM Summit Meeting in Helsinki, Finland, 10-11 September 2006, leaders of ASEM partner countries have discussed the issues and produced a declaration that identified areas of cooperation on the issue of environment and agreed on new areas of cooperation, including sustainable development with a special focus on means to achieve MDGs, climate change, environment, and energy security".

In line with the commitment of the Government of Indonesia for environmental protection, we have launched a massive reforestation programme. For the year 2007, we have increased our reforestation budget to 445 million USD, compared to 335 million USD for 2006. The programme is design with a 2:1 comparison, which means that for every 1 million acres of forest allotted for industrialization, 2 million hectares of land areas shall be reforested. With this scheme, we hope that we can restore the condition of our forest in less than the projected 50 years.

In the regional context of the fight against corruption, Indonesia proposed the strengthening cooperation on anti-corruption with APEC member countries through the establishment of APEC corruption free zone. Indonesia also hosted the Conference of UN Convention on Anti-Corruption Parties on November 2006. In line with this, Indonesia also maintained a further cooperation with other countries on extradition agreement and mutual legal assistance in order to combat corruption in all level.

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. In the national scope, we will also translate our excellent macroeconomic position into more jobs and social benefits for our people.

That is how Indonesia contributes in East Asia and 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.