ASEAN and miscellaneous international issues
JI-Jakarta. Indonesia’s leadership of ASEAN in 2023 will primarily focus on generating growth in the region that would be sustainable enough to help speed up recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a senior economic minister said.
Economic Coordinating Minister Airlangga Hartarto said Indonesia’s presidency of ASEAN this year would be focused on improving connectivity and competitiveness in the region. “Indonesia will improve recovery prospects through improved connectivity and competitiveness as well as by building resilience in financial services and food security,” Airlangga said.
Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang called Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi from Beijing on Friday. According to a statement issued by the Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry in Beijing, Indonesia, as the largest country in ASEAN, is an important partner in Belt and Road cooperation.
He said China expected Indonesia to take the lead and accelerate the development of the ASEAN community and East Asian cooperation. Meanwhile, Retno said China is an important bilateral and multilateral partner for Indonesia. She said Indonesia is looking forward to strengthening bilateral relations as well as exchanges and cooperation with China.
Against the backdrop of global geopolitical volatility and gloomy economic outlook, added with regional challenges that include Myanmar’s crisis and the South China Sea complexities, all eyes are on Indonesia which holds the 2023 Asean chairmanship.
Expectations are high for Indonesia’s leadership of Asean, especially looking at its President Joko Widodo’s leadership, achievements, and the international recognition that he has brought to the country.
Fresh from hosting the successful G20 Summit in November last year, geopolitical observers are upbeat on Indonesia’s leadership of Asean, especially in maneuvering the 10-member grouping from the many challenges within and emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Maritime Affairs and Investment Coordinating Minister Luhut Panjaitan urged Myanmar’s military to consider stepping back and letting “qualified” leaders govern the country that’s in an economic free-fall due to sanctions and worsening civil strife.
Myanmar’s junta should follow the example of Indonesia where the military had stepped back from controlling all aspects of government decades ago, Luhut, who is also a former general, said on a panel at the World Economic Forum, in a pointed remark about Myanmar coup leader-turned-prime minister Min Aung Hlaing.
Despite his views, Luhut stated that Indonesia would follow the ASEAN principle of non-interference while continuing talks with the junta leaders.
Indonesia is under increasing pressure to use its new one-year role as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to isolate Myanmar’s junta in a bid to end its bloody crackdown on pro-democracy opponents, analysts say.
But experts say reaching a consensus among the regional bloc remains a challenge in an area where Myanmar’s military still draws diplomatic cover from neighboring nations, as violence shows no signs of abating nearly two years after the February 2021 coup.
“We urge Indonesia to use its ASEAN chairmanship effectively to resolve the crisis in Myanmar,” Elaine Pearson, director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division, told reporters in Jakarta.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said tensions with China had eased, but expressed concern about Beijing’s intentions on Taiwan. Asked during an appearance at the University of Chicago if the temperature in relations with China had cooled, Blinken said, “I think it has because when you talk and engage, it usually has that effect.”
“The rest of the world expects us to manage these relationships responsibly. They know that the way we manage them will actually affect them.” But Blinken again expressed concern over China-claimed Taiwan, pointing to Beijing’s growing efforts to isolate the self-ruled democracy and the major military exercises it held near the island in August.
Nothing stands in the way of Timor-Leste joining the ASEAN, President Jose Ramos-Horta said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting here, adding that it could happen as early as this year.
The president said officials from Timor-Leste, also known as East Timor, are meeting with regional leaders and ASEAN secretariat officials to discuss a roadmap to accession to be submitted at the bloc’s summit this year.
He said the “solemn, formal accession can happen this year or in a year’s time.” Indonesia, the rotating ASEAN chair in 2023 and the permanent host of the organization’s secretariat, is in full support of Timor-Leste’s full membership application.
President Jokowi’s “blunt” adamance to win over the trade dispute with the European Union over palm oil and nickel could be useful for advancing Indonesia’s agenda, analysts suggest, though they also warn that the rift must be managed well to avoid injuring both their future economies and the diplomatic relationship.
As each other’s strategic economic partner, any failure to mitigate existing disputes will only drag out the glacial progress on the Indonesia–EU Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (I-EU CEPA), with some suggesting that more productive dialogue is needed to keep ties intact. But such bluntness may be necessary said Riza Noer Arfani, an international relations expert from Gadjah Mada University.
“The European Union is a benchmark setter. There is a clear power inequality between them and Indonesia, which requires the latter — as a developing country speaking to a developed group of countries — to be as frank and bold as possible,” Riza said.
“2023 must be the year of progress in resolving the Palestinian issue. It is our collective responsibility to end Israeli’s occupation once and for all,” this was stated by Minister for Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi at the Security Council Open Debate (UNSC) in New York.
During the meeting, the UN Secretary General represented by the Special Coordinator for Palestine, Tor Wennesland conveyed that the situation in Palestine is far from conducive. Violence, destruction of property, and evictions of Palestinian citizens still persist. The year 2022 was the deadliest and claimed a higher toll of Palestinian citizens lives since 2005.