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Interview with Asean decision makers

• Dian Djani: Charter will strengthen Asean cooperation.


Interview with Mr. Dian Triansyah Djani, Director General for ASEAN Cooperation, Department of Foreign Affairs, Indonesia

Q: Do you think ASEAN’s individual members’ pursuit of bilateral trade deals with their key trade partners have negative impact on the group’s economic integration drive?
A: When we speak to dialogue partners we make it quite clear that we would like them to also support our community building processes. So it would not be in contradiction with economic integration within ourselves but supporting it, becoming building blocks for our economic integration.

Q: How will the new charter speed up ASEAN’s drive for a truly integrated market?
A: The charter itself is intended to strengthen ASEAN cooperation: not only within the grouping itself, but also with its dialogue partners. It will ensure that all the agreements that have been decided upon by ASEAN in the past would be fortified and become legally binding - in terms of pursuing our economic integration as well as integration in other fields.
Q: Is it necessary for ASEAN to hold free-trade negotiations with the EU to maintain their benefits as the EU have concluded many free-trade pacts with ASEAN's trading partners?
A: I was before in charge of the WTO. As long as FTAs are negotiated in such a way that they would not be harmful to the multilateral trading system and would become building blocks in further liberalisation of trade and investment, I think that they would really help.
Any FTA - not only with the EU, but also with other dialogue partners is helping in our objective to continue to open markets and strengthen our trade and economic relations with our dialogue partners. 

Q: The fight against terror has brought ASEAN members together, yet, multilateral cooperation has proven to be difficult due apparently to political sensitivities and conflicts. Is there a way out?
A: I believe we in ASEAN have done a lot in our cooperation to combat terrorism. We have come up with what we call an ASEAN Convention on Counterterrorism, a major document, a major breakthrough that doesn't only cover efforts to combat terrorism after it has occurred, but also efforts and steps on prevention, and rehabilitative steps also. The cooperation among ASEAN member countries in terms of fighting terrorism has been excellent. We have many of what we call Training Center/Centers of Excellence: in Indonesia we have the Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation, where all law enforcement officers (not only from ASEAN countries, but also from ARF countries, Pacific Islands Forum, etc.) are training their staff, exchanging their experience and are engaged in capacity building.

Q: ASEAN Regional Forum, the only security forum in the Asia Pacific region, seems unable to move beyond "confidence building measures". Do you think the group will be able to find a way to set up "conflict management" and possibly, come up with a mechanism that address "conflict resolution"?
A: Well, the way it has been going so far (I used to handle the ARF, also) confidence building, conflict resolution, conflict prevention is just one package. And the line between one area and the other is very blurred: sometimes one wonders, whether this or that is conflict resolution or conflict prevention.
I don't try to differentiate between one sector and the other. What is most important is that they are all beneficial in enhancing ARF cooperation between its participants. We have to understand that it's a forum. It consists of many important players, including the big players in the world.
The ARF has been very encouraging and very productive: in capacity building, exchanging best practices, joint simulation exercises, networking, direct contact between concerned authorities.

Q: Indonesia has had the experience of contributing to peace efforts in Cambodia and the Philippines. From your perspective, how should a peaceful solution be found to the unrest in the three southern provinces of Thailand?
A: As you know, the basic principle of ASEAN policies is non-interference and non intervention. Of course, if we are invited we would try to help to find a solution. But first of all the country involved would have to invite us.
That was exactly the case with the Philippines, who invited us to help in the case of Moro. In the case of Thailand… there are many areas where we can exchange our views and experience.

Q: If we term it as an 'advice'? What can Indonesia advise Thailand?
A: Well, usually we also are not advising our colleagues unless we are requested to do so. I think, every country has its own characteristics. And we trust all our ASEAN colleagues to be able to settle their issues on their own.
We in Indonesia, in case of Aceh, have been asking all our ASEAN colleagues to come in, to help us on the Aceh Monitoring Mission. Still, not every ASEAN mechanism might work in every ASEAN country, but for us that has been the course of action.

Q: Do you think that peace agreement in Aceh will have an impact on peace building measures in Muslim-populated Southern Thailand?
A: Well, I don't know whether every tailor can sew the same suit… We have to take into consideration every characteristic of the region itself, see, what similarities does it have with Aceh in many ways…

Q: How does Indonesia respond to the classification of the Malacca Straits as a risk zone for piracy and terrorism by the Lloyd's Market Association?
A: First of all, we have to question what would be the definition of 'piracy'? We base our definition on the United Nations Conference on the Law of Sea of 1982. And you would see there, that if goods are taken from a ship in the harbor, it's not piracy! It's armed robbery, for instance. So we need to have the same definition before embarking on making a judgment. Particularly if we want to use statistics, we should have the same benchmark.

Q: Indonesia’s experience of moving from an authoritarian regime to a democratic one could be useful in helping persuade Myanmar to introduce reforms. What has Indonesia done so far to help Myanmar start implementing reforms?
A: What we do is always within the context of ASEAN, of course. And ASEAN always considers Myanmar as a member of our family. Of course, we would like to see progress in moving along the road map for democracy based on our cooperation within ASEAN. Not only Indonesia but also all the other ASEAN countries are approaching this situation in such a way.

Interviewed by
RIA Novosti's Mikhail Tsyganov
in Jakarta

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