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Jakarta | Tue, January 17, 2017

Indonesia should strengthen its role in ASEAN by taking a more active role and through intellectual leadership within the association’s platforms.

ASEAN as a driver for regional cooperation needs to strengthen unity between its member states and it should operate under universal values without neglecting the non-interference principle, said foreign policy scholar Dewi Fortuna Anwar.

“Currently ASEAN has a lot of problems [including] among its member states, the South China Sea dispute, highly different political ideologies, and the distinction between less developed and developed member states,” she said at a discussion at The Habibie Center on Thursday.

These problems should not be happening as ongoing conflicts in the region will affect domestic interests, Dewi said, adding that ASEAN regional security and stability should be strengthened and that it was a prerequisite for other related government policies to be implemented.

“As Indonesia is located in a strategic area within ASEAN, the country can and should effectively be engaged in the future,” she said.

Dewi said President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo once mentioned that his term should not ambitiously focus on foreign policy but it should focus on economic growth and bilateral relations instead.

However, Dewi believed Indonesia needed stronger involvement in ASEAN.

“We need security at the regional level to have positive economic growth. If there is a conflict at the ASEAN level, it will affect Indonesia directly,” she said.

Meanwhile, commenting on Indonesia’s foreign policy priorities for 2017 as set by Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi during the Annual Press Statement on Tuesday, Dewi said “we have to be optimistic that the various foreign policy targets will be realized as long as we work hard and intelligently toward the goals”.

Retno set 14 foreign policy priorities including strengthening ASEAN, engagement in the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and seeking support for Indonesia’s application as a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) non-permanent member.

Dewi agreed with Retno’s foreign policy priorities but as for Indonesia’s engagement in IORA chairmanship, Dewi suggested that the government have a strong relationship with domestic stakeholders and called for ministries to support each other.

“Indonesia should contribute substantive matters not limited to a chairmanship and establish realistic cooperation in IORA,” she said.

Dewi also commented on Indonesia’s intention to bid as a nonpermanent member in the UNSC.

“This might be a challenge for Indonesia. However, if it aimed for this goal it should seek support at the international level by performing an act of reciprocity,” she added.

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The writer is an intern at The Jakarta Post.

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