Today we have a unique opportunity to learn from a most authoritative source the perspective of the United States on Indonesia and the new security architecture of Asia.
It is important for all of us to get an accurate appreciation of this perspective—for the simple reason that the United States is today the only superpower in the world. No major global problem can be solved without the involvement of this superpower.
That does not however mean that it can solve any major global problem by itself. While the United States must lead or play a key role, other nations must cooperate in the spirit of multilateralism to solve such problems as the crisis in the Middle East, international terrorism, the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula, and climate change.
The presence of the United States is therefore welcome all over Asia and the Pacific. It is a stabilizing presence which provides balance to the regional security architecture. It is also a positive economic factor: American investments helped industrialize the region. One of the unsung heroes of the Asian economic miracle is the American consumers.
On the other hand, it is to the interest of American security and prosperity that the Asia-Pacific region, especially East Asia, is stable and at peace with itself. Apart from the fact that the region is a huge market for American goods and services, its strategic value to American security cannot be under-estimated.
The world’s most heavily traveled sea-lanes are in Southeast Asia. The east-west sea-lane connects the Indian and the Pacific Oceans while the north-south sea-lane links Australia and New Zealand with Northeast Asia. Both are the lifelines by which the East Asian economies like China, South Korea, Japan and the Philippines receive critical inputs like oil and industrial raw materials to name but a few.
Indonesia and its two neighbors, Malaysia and Singapore, stand guard over these sea-lanes.
It is therefore important to the rest of the world and to the United States that in Asia, there is an active force for peace and dialogue. And that is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Before ASEAN was founded just over forty years ago, Southeast Asia was an economic backwater and an arena of armed conflict and political turmoil. Today the ASEAN region has become one of the world’s most economically dynamic regions. It is also a veritable Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality. All because of ASEAN’s incessant drive for dialogue, cooperation and network building.
Today we in this region are striving to become by 2015 an ASEAN Community resting on three pillars: security cooperation, economic cooperation and socio-cultural cooperation. We have just written an ASEAN Charter that will give ASEAN a legal personality and make it a rules-based, people-oriented organization ready to face the challenges of a new millennium.
The impact of ASEAN’s work has reached beyond its regional borders. In 1994, it established the ASEAN Regional Forum, in which security matters are extensively discussed by all powers whose interest and influence have an effect on the Asian footprint—including, of course, the United States. And since the start of the 1990s, ASEAN has always been a major bloc within the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.
In 1997, at the height of the Asian Crisis, ASEAN reached out to its more economically mature Northeast Asian counterparts and together with them launched the highly successful ASEAN Plus Three process. This was a factor of significant importance in the region’s recovery from the crisis.
So successful was the ASEAN Plus Three Process that it led to the holding of the first East Asian Summit (EAS) in Kuala Lumpur in 2005. The EAS represents a redefined East Asia, which is no longer a mere geographical, racial and cultural entity but an entity formed through many years of habitual consultation and cooperation. Thus it is an East Asia that includes India, Australia and New Zealand.
A new politico-security and socioeconomic architecture is being formed in East Asia through ASEAN’s ceaseless networking. And Indonesia will always be a committed and active participant in that networking, ASEAN being the lynchpin of Indonesia’s foreign policy. Considering that its population of 240 million constitutes about 40 percent of ASEAN and that it is the largest economy in Southeast Asia, Indonesia feels strongly that it has a big stake in the attainment of the envisioned ASEAN Community.
At the same time, Indonesia is mindful of its long-standing partnership with the United States in contributing to the climate of peace and prosperity in this part of the world. With prosperity and peace prevailing in our neighborhood, the United States has one region less to worry about. It matters a great deal that Indonesia’s relations with the United States have so greatly improved since we embarked on an era of pervasive reform in the wake of the ASEAN Crisis about a decade ago.
We have not only recovered from the devastation of the Asian Crisis, we have also since then become the world’s third largest democracy. We have made tremendous progress in attaining good governance. Our drive against corruption has produced remarkable results. We have become the living proof that Islam and democracy can live and flourish together. We have thus become a more worthy and reliable partner of the United States in this part of the world.
Indeed we can confidently say that we are striving very hard to live up to the democratic ideals and values that made the United States of America not only a superpower but, more importantly, a prosperous nation which other nations look up to.
Indeed, democracy has fully flourished and delivered in the United States, so it will in Indonesia. It is against this backfdrop Indonesia sees the strategic importance of our partners in democracy – the United States in particular – to help us stabilize democracy and create prosperity in the country.But that is our perspective.
Today we will get the perspective of the United States from a most authoritative source, no less than the Secretary of Defence of the United States of America, H.E. Dr. Robert Gates. What he will tell us today about America’s view and how it intends to interact with Indonesia and the new Asian security architecture, is of immense importance. It will enlighten us and prepare us to enhance our partnership with the world’s sole superpower.
Excellency, may I now invite you to make your presentation.