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BEGINNING OR THE END?
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AseanAffairs Magazine March - April 2011
CONTENT • ASEAN TECH
• ASEAN CORPORATE STRATEGY • ASEAN TRAVELLER
• ASEAN ENERGY

• BEYOND ASEAN

• ASEAN ENVIRONMENT INSIDE OUT
• ASEAN MONEY  • THE AWAKENING
 • ASEAN TALK      • SAVE OUR PLANET IV

 

 

A NEW REALIGNMENT or CONTINUING CHAOS?
Managing Editor David Swartzentruber sees a new global political restructuring as the answer to the current global chaos.


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THE FUTURE OF INDONESIA’S
RELATIONS WITH ASEAN

 












By

Tulus Tambunan

Indonesia has a long and complex relationship with Asean and as emerging Indonesia takes its place on the world stage, Tulus Tambunan analyzes what that effect will be on Indonesia’s Asean role.

  Since independence, Indonesian foreign relations, including its membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and in the global context, the nonaligned nations, have adhered to a “free and active” foreign policy, seeking to play a role in regional affairs commensurate with its size and location but avoiding involvement in conflicts among major powers.

At one time, Indonesian foreign policy was stridently anti-Western, especially toward the United States during the Sukarno era (1945-1966). Since then the “New Order” era led by President Soeharto (1966) until the present day, the Indonesian government has adopted a more moderate foreign policy. This moderate foreign policy will continue to be the base of Indonesia’s relations with the rest of the world, including Asean.

A cornerstone of Indonesia’s contemporary foreign policy is its participation in Asean. It was a founding member in 1967 with Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Since then, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia have also joined Asean. While organized to promote common economic, social, and cultural goals, Asean acquired a security dimension after Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia in 1979. This aspect of Asean expanded with the establishment of the ASEAN Regional Forum in 1994, which comprises 22 countries, including the United States.

Southeast Asian foreign ministers and senior officials confer during an informal ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting in Jakarta.

Since then, Asean has become a major focus of Indonesia’s regional international relations. In this regional organistion Indonesia, together with the other four founding members and Brunei (Brunei became a member in 1984) helped construct a regional multinational framework to facilitate economic cooperation among member countries, diminish intra-Asean conflict, and formulate Asean positions regarding perceived potential external threats. However, since the fall of Soeharto in 1998 during the Asian financial crisis, Indonesia has been facing continued domestic troubles which have distracted Indonesian attentions from Asean matters and consequently lessened its influence within the organization.

It is generally believed that Indonesia joined Asean simply because it gives more benefits than not being a member. Joining a multinational organisation such as Asean will have both disadvantages and advantages, and the balance of those two will determine the future relationship of Indonesia with this regional organisation.

Now the question is: “Has Indonesia enjoyed benefits as being a member of Asean since its founding in 1967?” To answer this question however, is not easy since the answer requires a cost-benefit analysis to balance disadvantages and advantages. One concrete example is that by the early 1960s Indonesia became involved in a military confrontation with Malaysia, and it ended officially in 1967 when the Soekarno era ended and was replaced by the “new order” era. During that time Asean provided a framework for the termination of the Indonesian- Malaysian confrontation, allowing Indonesia to rejoin the regional community of nations in a nonthreatening setting. But the question is, did Asean help end the confrontation,or was that because of Soeharto’s own efforts. Soeharto was known as a pragmatic person who thought that war with the West (in the confrontation Malaysia was backed up by British, Australia and New Zealand) would harm more than benefit Indonesia, and in the 1960s the Indonesian economy was nearly bankrupt, and only the West could help Indonesia.

Although the original formation of Asean, initiated first by President Soeharto, was aimed to block the expansion of communism in the region, the organisation is expected to be an effective engine for economic growth in member countries, and this should be achieved through the increase in intra-trade and investment among the countries. Entrepreneurs, traders and workers in Indonesia who are aware of the existence of Asean have always hoped that their businesses and incomes would increase because of it. Of course, if Indonesian government officials or academics are asked, they would say Asean has a bright future and Indonesia should play an important role in it.

However, if that question is put to ordinary people, including many in the business community such as traders, investors, and producers, probably more than The hypothesis derived from this view is that, the greater the net benefits enjoyed by a country from being a member of an organisation, the better the country’s relations with the organisation. 

ASETUC Evaluation and Strategic Planning Meeting on ASEAN Economic Integration 2011-2015.

Now the question is: “Has Indonesia enjoyed benefits as being a member of Asean since its founding in 1967?” To answer this question however, is not easy since the answer requires a cost-benefit analysis to balance disadvantages and advantages. One concrete example is that by the early 1960s Indonesia became involved in a military confrontation with Malaysia, and it ended officially in 1967 when the Soekarno era ended and was replaced by the “new order” era. During that time Asean provided a framework for the termination of the Indonesian- Malaysian confrontation, allowing Indonesia to rejoin the regional community of nations in a nonthreatening setting. But the question is, did Asean help end the confrontation,or was that because of Soeharto’s own efforts. Soeharto was known as a pragmatic person who thought that war with the West (in the confrontation Malaysia was backed up by British, Australia and New Zealand) would harm more than benefit Indonesia, and in the 1960s the Indonesian economy was nearly bankrupt, and only the West could help Indonesia.

Although the original formation of Asean, initiated first by President Soeharto, was aimed to block the expansion of communism in the region, the organisation is expected to be an effective engine for economic growth in member countries, and this should be achieved through the increase in intra-trade and investment among the countries. Entrepreneurs, traders and workers in Indonesia who are aware of the existence of Asean have always hoped that their businesses and incomes would increase because of it. Of course, if Indonesian government officials or academics are asked, they would say Asean has a bright future and Indonesia should play an important role in it.

However, if that question is put to ordinary people, including many in the business community such as traders, investors, and producers, probably more than half of them have no idea or they do not see why Indonesia really needs Asean, except they enjoy free visas to visit other member countries (except Laos PDR and Myanmar). In fact, most people in Indonesia (and most likely in other Asean member countries) have no clue as to what Asean is, except that it organises regular meetings, forums, conferences and summits as seen on television. It hard to find people in Jakarta with an Asean flag adhered to their car or in their briefcase, while EU flags can be easily seen everywhere in all EU countries. As the Indonesian government officials but not the Indonesian community including businessmen are the key players of Asean, this opinion of the majority of Indonesian people should be taken into account seriously because it will strongly influence the future of Indonesia’s relations with Asean. .........

Tulus Tambunan is Professor of Economics in the University of Trisakti, Indonesia. Currently, he is also the director of the Center for Industry and SMEs Studies in the same university, and an economic adviser for the chairman of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

 

 

 

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