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Reports on Speech/Lecture

Name of Event:  Address by H.E. Dr. R. M. Marty M. Natalegawa
Honourable Foreign Minister of Republic of Indonesia
Date:  27 July 2012
Venue:  Sapru House, New Delhi

Indonesian View of the World

Opening Remarks: Shri Rajiv K. Bhatia, Director General, ICWA In his opening statement, Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia, Director General of ICWA, extended a warm welcome to the Minister, recalling his intellectual, diplomatic and political achievements. Ambassador Bhatia also highlighted the active role of the first Secretary General of ICWA, A Appadorai, during the historic Bandung Summit of Non-Aligned Movement in 1955, thus, an important and special link the Council shares with Indonesia. Till today, ICWA continues to draw the attention of Asia as a premier foreign policy think-tank from India.

Ambassador Bhatia underscored the emergence of Indonesia as an important player in the evolving geo-strategic matrix of Asia, displaying a new sense of confidence and activism among its leaders. The country represents a successful growth story, a stable polity and a flourishing democracy. Riding on the rise of Asia and the global South, Indonesia is set to play a discourse-shaping role, both in global and continental affairs.

India-Indonesia relations, as emphasised by Ambassador Bhatia, have been blessed with a rich history and a multi-dimensional character. Indonesia and India are leading emerging economies and 'natural partners', devoted to preservation of unity amidst diversity, democratic values and inclusive governance. He referred to India-Indonesia relations as 'the journey of companion souls,' a phrase used by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore to describe the bilateral relationship.

Ambassador Bhatia ended his remarks with a note of caution that though all key elements that symbolize a healthy relationship appear to be in place, the relationship remains much below the potential. The two countries are capable to attain much more through closer cooperation and candid dialogue, particularly at Track II level. Are New Delhi and Jakarta ready to leverage their dialogue and cooperation in order to tackle major global and regional challenges?

Address by Dr. R. M. Marty M. Natalegawa, Foreign Minister of Indonesia
Minister Natalegawa in his expression of appreciation of the Indian Council of World Affairs, laid stress on the important role the Council has played during the last sixty years in shaping the strategic discourse in Asia. He laid out, in his presentation, two major themes of discussion - India-Indonesia relations and Indonesian assessment of the main trends in Asia-Pacific region. His analysis of the second theme included two important sub-themes (a) principal security challenges, and the evolving political and security architecture in East Asia.

India-Indonesia Relations
Minister Natalegawa characterised the bilateral relations that predate our independence, embedded in our cultural and civilizational linkages, as 'robust and strong' and 'on the positive trajectory.' He traced the precursor of the relations to the Non-Aligned Movement of 1950s and shared visions of the then leaders of the two countries. Indonesia and India now share one important quality as fellow democracies. Two principal democracies of the Asia-Pacific, he asserted, both emerging strongly economically, can develop a joint agenda together.

He also stressed that the relationship was gaining strength not only because of the increasing content of bilateral cooperation but also because of the growing relevance of this relationship in the changing regional and global context. Asia-Africa relevance was well recognised. The two countries find themselves working together in different forums such as NAM, G-77 where India and Indonesia ccould project its positive relations into joint agenda. India and Indonesia are also working closely on several other issues through different forums. Both India and Indonesia are important members of G-20 as well as East Asia Summit, which represent important avenues of cooperation at the global and regional level respectively.

Minister Natalegawa underscored Indonesia's strong support for India's Look East policy and the former's critical role in ensuring the latter's entry into the East Asia Summit. However, he agreed with Ambassador Bhatia that there was considerable scope for further expansion of India-Indonesia relations.

Indonesian View of Asia-Pacific
While discussing the Indonesian assessment of the region, Minister Natalegawa addressed three key issues - the peace dividends of the past, principal security challenges and the evolving security architecture in the Asia-Pacific. Countries of the region, including Indonesia, have been reaping peace dividends as a result of peace and stability that has existed in the region during the last two decades. This is reflected in the eradication of poverty, high-level economic growth and better human development indices. He emphasised that our primary objective should be to sustain benign and peaceful atmosphere in the Asia-Pacific.

Principal Security Challenges
Minister Natalegawa identified three important security challenges - the rise of Asian powers, escalating territorial disputes and maritime security as the most important non-traditional security challenges.

One of the most important security challenges facing the regional strategic environment is the rise of Asian powers - China, India, ASEAN, Indonesia and others. Besides, there are several other powers, such as the United States and Russia, which are well entrenched in the regional architecture. The relations of these powers are going to have profound impact on the region. Therefore they need to be clearly understood and managed. All the countries in the region need to maintain peaceful relations among these powers.

The second important challenge is the growing spectre of territorial disputes. Minister Natalegawa referred to three such disputes - Korean Peninsula, South China Sea and Thai-Cambodian dispute. Minister Natalegawa admitted that Korean Peninsula was a perennial issue, too hard to be resolved, and, therefore, he called for the need to revive the six-party talks to work towards the resolution of the dispute. He maintained that they could not remain complacent regarding the unfolding situation in the region.

The Minister devoted considerable time explaining various dimensions of different issues relating to South China Sea dispute. He stressed that the potential for conflict existed that necessitated pro-active diplomatic action by all concerned. The need for nations putting forward 'overlapping claims' was to adhere to the guidelines of the Code of Conduct (COC), already agreed. ASEAN, he said, was ready to discuss the elements of COC with China. Minister Natalegawa also expressed his country's readiness to play any role in resolving the dispute.

Indonesia had in the past started a series of workshops towards the resolution of the South China Sea dispute that was not taken seriously then; they often mistook as Jakarta's search to have a mission or project its image as a busy body. He attributed current escalation of the dispute to the domestic priorities of the countries. Minister Natalegawa also threw light on the Thai-Cambodian dispute that was heading towards resolution. Indonesia had earlier offered to play the mediating role in the dispute. While discussing the strategies of Jakarta in addressing these issues, Minister Natalegawa highlighted that his country had introduced a game-changing strategy to resolve these issues. He emphasised that issues were no longer being swept under the carpet and they were taking them head on.

The third important security challenge as highlighted by Minister Natalegawa is the Non-traditional security issues, which are inter-linked and can not be viewed in isolation. He pointed out that today maritime issues had come to the fore and they must be addressed. Indonesia was trying to come up with new paradigms and innovation to develop new ways to resolve the issue. He also declared that they did not have a crystal ball to gaze and anticipate the challenge. Therefore, they had to develop capacities and modalities to face these challenges as they came. The evolving political and security architecture was one of the steps towards addressing these challenges.

Evolving Political and Security Architecture
Minister Natalegawa gave a detailed exposition of the evolution of political and security architecture in the region. The architecture was taking shape at two levels - community-building process within ASEAN and an inclusive pan-Asia-Pacific security architecture with an ASEAN centrality. The minister reflected upon the sustained effort on the part of ASEAN members to work towards achieving three levels of integration - ASEAN Political and Security Community, ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community and ASEAN Economic Community by 2015.

Minister Natalegawa also explained in detail the guiding principles on which the ASEAN architecture was operating. Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) forms the most important principle. He pointed out that ASEAN was securing commitment from its members and regional powers towards no use of force as envisaged in the TAC. The signing of TAC remained one of the prerequisites for a country to become a member of ASEAN architecture. As a result of the TAC, no member of the EAS could now use force in the region. It has a huge peace-building impact.

The minister dwelt on the conflicting claims over whether ASEAN architecture should be an exclusive or inclusive process. He asserted that Indonesia had always supported the inclusive character of regional architecture and also explained the rationale of bringing countries like India, Australia and New Zealand as well as China, Japan and South Korea into the East Asia Summit, adding that, with the later induction of US and Russia, a suitable 'equation', was now in place in the region.

Finally, the Minister, while reflecting upon corrective steps being taken within ASEAN, also underscored that the grouping was looking towards European Community to draw lessons and ideas from them. He asserted that the Eurozone crisis had given a good lesson for ASEAN to prepare itself.


Q. How much has Indonesia's shuttle diplomacy been able to repair the damage caused to the consensus-based ASEAN Process?

Answer: Only time will tell whether we have been able to repair the damage or not. The risk of not doing anything was far larger than the risk of doing something and not making success or even making success but not sustainable. ASEAN's strength lies precisely from its unity and its acceptability, and that is why ASEAN has been able to play such a prominent role in shaping and moulding the region's architecture. The next few weeks and months are going to be very critical in this regard.

We need to continue to make progress and making progress here means making a Code of Conduct (CoC). Instead of lamenting and complaining and becoming worried about all the various incidences that have taken place, Indonesia is using them as a reminder that we need to quickly make progress on the CoC. However, there is a variation among the claimant countries of what this code should entail.

Indonesia believes less is more that means it is operational. It shouldn't be a DOC - 2, a mere promulgation of nice and important principles. It should be instructive about conduct at sea, modalities reporting of incidents at sea and methods of management of conflicts at sea. The draft document is ready and being discussed by the foreign ministers of the region.

ASEAN has had its challenges in the past. Today the ASEAN region receives much more attention from the non-ASEAN countries. But their presence need not cause rupture in ASEAN. In order to do so, the grouping needs to stay ahead of the curve, working towards norm-setting and finalising the rules of the game. We are the ones setting the norms, setting the principles, and promoting what Indonesia calls 'dynamic equilibrium' in the interest of peace and security in the region.

Q. What is the current status on Indonesia-China dispute over Natuna Islands?

Answer: There has not been any further development on the issue of Natuna Island. Indonesia does not consider itself party to the South China Sea dispute and it has already submitted its objections to the nine dotted lines as claimed by China.

Q. Terrorism is being described as one of the most important sources of instability in Asia including West Asia. Therefore, there is a need for a pan-Asian body including West Asia to address terrorism and Indonesia as the largest Muslim country is the best positioned to lead such an initiative?

Answer: The challenges facing today are not just traditional but also non-traditional security issues such as natural disaster. The largest number of loss of lives in the region of Asia-Pacific in the recent past has not been caused by the man-made disasters rather by the natural disasters.

There are several approaches that could be discussed to address the problem of terrorism. We can either follow (a) an organisational approach - an umbrella-type structure or overarching security architecture or (b) follow the ASEAN method of 'forms follow function' approach. If ASEAN is able to connect the outer dots, it can bring West Asia within its forum to discuss the issue of terrorism. There exists a wide spectrum of ideas in the region. The region is also looking at the European experience and trying to develop the region into community.

Q. Both Indonesia and Asia has come a long way since Sukarno. How has Indonesia viewed the Arab Spring? Is the Arab Spring going to have impact on Indonesia as the most populous Muslim country in the world?

Answer: Indonesia has been vocal over the Syrian issue, calling for an end to the conflict and a robust role for the UN not only in observing the situation, rather also in bringing an end to the conflict that has caused so much of civilian casualties.

The Arab Spring offers Indonesia an important opportunity in the medium and long-term to showcase in a humble rather than in a pontificating or know-it-all way that democracy, Islam and development can go hand in hand. There was a thesis in Indonesia, until very recently, that it is not possible for a pluralistic and developing society like Indonesia with a large Muslim population to prosper and thrive as a democratic country. We have, in a very modest way, proved otherwise.

Indonesia has been engaged with the leaders in Egypt and Tunisia to share Indonesian experiences. However, Indonesia is not doing it in a very loud manner since it believes that every country must have a sense of ownership in their transformation efforts. What we are witnessing in the Middle East and in North Africa, are going to have a profound impact not only on the geopolitics of that region, but also in the democratic pen play or architecture of the region as well.

Q: How does Indonesia view the presence of large number of nuclear weapon states in the ASEAN security architecture? How does it affect the overall security environment in the region?

Answer: Indonesia has consistently opposed the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and nuclear weapons whether it is North Korea or Iran. We have a very proud record especially within the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). As the country coordinator for the NAM, Indonesia has maintained a consistent position and supported the issue of disarmament in general, especially nuclear disarmament.

The nuclear component in the regional architecture is a worrisome trend. ASEAN has, over the past two and a half years, taken a number of quite important decisions that can prove to be game-changers. For example, Indonesia has finally ratified the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). As one of the two sponsoring countries, Indonesia's certification is essential before the CTBT comes into effect. Indonesia had a hand in its promulgation and therefore, it has always been an ardent supporter of CTBT from the beginning. Indonesia had earlier withheld its ratification as it felt that the nuclear weapon states should first ratify it but that argument had run its course. Therefore, we decided lead by example. Indonesia believes that its ratification may have a spill-over effect in other capitals in pushing them through pure encouragement to do likewise.

The second initiative is the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon Free Zone Treaty. ASEAN is trying for the last ten years to get it ratified by the nuclear weapon states. The nuclear weapon states have finally agreed to accede to the treaty during the Indonesian Chairmanship of ASEAN. Though it was scheduled to be signed at Phnom Penh, some interpretive or declaratory elements made it impossible for the treaty to be signed. ASEAN is going to work on it so that we can have this signed in September at the United Nations General Assembly. In other words, ASEAN is keen to ensure that the restraint of countries not to go the nuclear route must be rewarded and appreciated. The nuclear architecture in the region must be conducive and benign.

Q: What is Indonesia's position on Iran's ambitions for a nuclear program or sanctions against Iran?

Answer: Iran must comply with their international obligations and Indonesia strongly opposes their acquisition of nuclear weapons capability. However, this problem must be addressed in an inclusive manner by the international community, rather than by just a select group of countries.

Q: How does Indonesia view China's increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea? Is the American presence going to further increase, instead of reducing, the tension in the region?

Answer: The domestic environment has considerably shaped the conduct of the claimant states and therefore the dynamic of South China Sea conflict. It is exerting a lot of pressure on the foreign policy makers. As a result, the room for manoeuvre, compromise, or consensus has become smaller. The decision-makers are not dealing with the people sitting on the negotiating table, rather with the whole constituencies back home. This reality afflicts not only democracies, but even non-democratic countries. Therefore, we need to give courage to leaders, diplomats, ministers, and others to be able to, not necessarily to sympathize, but at least to empathize their compulsions so that we can find consensus and common solution.

Second, the US presence has the potential of creating a vicious cycle. The region is now in an action-reaction type of setting, where countries assume the worst of one another. In the absence of some kind of guarantee, we now have a perfect storm, a vicious cycle of action-reaction. We must interfere and break the cycle. ASEAN did it in Myanmar. Today, countries are competing with one another in terms of extending assistance to Myanmar. Indonesia, under its ASEAN chairmanship in 2011, deliberately and purposefully created a conducive climate for the change in the country. Similarly, it can be done in the case of South China Sea issue. It was beginning to be done last year when ASEAN adopted guidelines to formulate the CoC. There is a need to give room for diplomacy to thrive and not be engaged in a worst-case assumption of one another's intentions. That is why this code of conduct is very important. It provides space, like a sponge or buffer, to keep countries at ease.

Report by:    Dr. Vibhanshu Shekhar, Research Fellow, Indian Council of World Affairs