Indonesian Geopolitics, ASEAN Peace, and Building the World

On September 30 1960, in his speech entitled “To Build The World a New”, Bung Karno shouted: “Build this World again! Build this world strong and healthy! Build a world where all nations live in peace and brotherhood. Build a world that suits the dreams and aspirations of mankind.”

The world was shocked. At that time, the cold war tensions between the great powers of the Soviet Union and the United States (US) seemed to show how the world was not in a very healthy condition.

So Bung Karno’s speech – the great leader of this great country – became a serious topic of discussion among world leaders. Even today, it has become relevant for further interpretation.

Moreover, the premise of the speech is in line with the vision of commitment that emerged at the recent ASEAN 42 Summit.

So this premise: “Build a world where all nations live in peace and brotherhood,” emphasizes the geopolitical outline of the ASEAN Charter which contains 290 action steps that must be implemented in order to create ASEAN a peaceful region.

With geopolitics, it also aims to increase cooperation between ASEAN countries, especially regarding political and security issues.

So from here the peace agreement owned by ASEAN called the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality (ZOPFAN) found its most concrete form in creating regional security and stability in Southeast Asia.

Maintaining Peace Stability

Peace is a state of calm. The hope that emerges from the meaning of ASEAN as a peaceful region is basically also togetherness to maintain stability.

However, there is no regional stability without national stability. It must be acknowledged that among ASEAN members, there are still those whose national stability is unstable. In fact, it shook. This situation is seen in Myanmar.

The military dictatorship there has restricted democracy and violated human rights against the Rohingya ethnic community, making the national condition unstable.

However, fellow ASEAN members are bound by a non-intervention agreement and cannot interfere in the domestic problems of their member countries.

ASEAN member countries must be able to refrain from interfering in the domestic affairs experienced by other member countries.

If a country decides to interfere, then that country has violated the agreed principles.

One of the principles is that each country has the right to take all actions according to its own wishes, and there must be no intervention from foreign parties, including from fellow member countries or the ASEAN organization itself.

Nevertheless, in order to build “a world where all nations live in peace and brotherhood,” fellow nations and fellow members of ASEAN should help stabilize it without interfering in the country’s internal affairs.

This means that ASEAN must open dialogue with member countries whose national conditions are unstable.

Not only that, in order to make ASEAN a peaceful region, ASEAN should also open dialogue with regional neighboring countries, including Australia.

On 18 May 2023, the Philippines reaffirmed its regional security partnership with Australia. This strategic partnership between the Philippines and Australia, as emphasized by Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Penny Wong, is strengthened by the provision of drone equipment, training and other technology to strengthen the Philippines’ maritime preparedness and protection capabilities.

Previously, on February 8 2023, Indonesia discussed defense and security issues in the region in a 2+2 meeting of foreign ministers and defense ministers from the two countries.

This meeting is very important to discuss dynamics and competition between the main powers in the region, as well as maritime security, both in ASEAN and the Pacific.

Indonesia plays a central role

ASEAN also has a channel called APSC. The ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) is a forum for cooperation between ASEAN countries in the political field, formed in 2009, which functions to maintain peace, security and stability in the ASEAN region.

Indonesia plays an important role in initiating a security community through the ASEAN Political Security Community.

Moreover, Indonesia as the leader of ASEAN in 2023 must take a central role in supporting security stability in the Southeast Asian region.

This central role is also pursued simultaneously so that ASEAN, globally, participates in maintaining world stability. Thus, Indonesia must be astute at early detection of instability in the ASEAN region.

It is possible that the political crisis that occurred in Myanmar, if Indonesia is not astute in detecting it, could escalate into a regional crisis.

At this point, dialogue approaches among ASEAN members can be taken. As with the South China Sea crisis, Indonesia must be more active in this tense area.

What’s more, tensions have not subsided as recently the Philippines accused a Chinese coast guard ship of firing laser beams and blocking a Philippine ship that was sending food to their troops in the South China Sea.

Manila said the Chinese ship carried out a dangerous maneuver at a distance of around 137 meters to block the progress of the Philippine ship which was approaching Second Thomas Shoals.

Philippines-China relations are heating up. The presence of Chinese troops has increased rapidly in the waters of the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines usually calls the waters of the South China Sea to the west of their land territory the West Philippine Sea.

However, this is not the case with China, it claims almost all of the waters of the South China Sea as part of its territory.

It’s a shame that this claim clashes and overlaps with the claims of four ASEAN countries, namely Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei Darussalam and Vietnam.

At the same time, the Philippines felt pressured, so it saw the need to renew cooperation with the United States (US) – China’s arch rival.

This relationship is intended to ward off Chinese troops while protecting its sovereign territory. So US military support will strengthen the Philippines’ self-confidence and position in facing Chinese pressure in the Spratly and Paracel Islands.

Then the Philippines gave wider access to the US military. US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said granting this access was important to reduce regional destabilization by China.

Indonesia must detect the geopolitical dominance of China and the US early, which is very likely that in the northern region of Indonesia, the rivalry between these two powers will become increasingly tense.

Also remembering how the relationship between China and the US has an explosive fuse with tensions between the two countries’ trade, military and global influence competition becoming increasingly violent and fierce.

Just the sparks from this friction have made the ASEAN region prone to turmoil. Thus, Indonesia is required to appear to play a central role.

This central role, among others, intensively means that Indonesia, as Chair of ASEAN 2023, must carry out negotiations with China to achieve progress in terms of regional security. As well as increasing cooperation.

Many parties place their hopes on Indonesia to make various breakthroughs and innovations in dealing with various world problems, which are also problems for the region.

Various parties are optimistic that Indonesia as the leader of ASEAN can encourage this resolution.

(Prof. DR. Drs. Ermaya Suradinata, SH, MH, MSI, is the former Director General of Social and Political Affairs of the Indonesian Ministry of Home Affairs, Chancellor of IPDN, Governor of Lemhannas RI, and currently the Expert Council for Geopolitics and Geostrategy of BPIP RI.)