ASEAN Will Never Become Proxy to Major Powers: Indonesia
Jakarta, Indonesianpost.com – ASEAN chair Indonesia on Tuesday reminded its fellow Southeast Asian countries to tell great powers loud and clear that the bloc refuses to become a proxy in their rivalries.
During its chairmanship, Indonesia has been attempting to make the 10-member grouping remain relevant within the region or beyond amidst rising tensions between US and China. But ASEAN would have to be in control in order to be relevant.
“ASEAN can only matter if it remains in the driver’s seat in navigating regional dynamics. We need to send a clear message that ASEAN will never be a proxy in great powers’ rivalry,” Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi said in the plenary session of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in Jakarta on Tuesday.
Retno also told the attending ASEAN foreign ministers that all parties must abide by the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC). As the name suggests, this treaty is a cooperation pact that becomes a guideline for peaceful inter-state relations in Southeast Asia. Dozens of countries, including non-ASEAN members such as the rivaling US and China, have acceded to the TAC.
At the forum, Indonesia called for ASEAN to expand its inclusive engagement to the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) for a peaceful Indo-Pacific region.
“We need to move beyond confidence-building measures and take bold steps to deter any potential conflicts and aggressively waging for peace through preventive diplomacy. Only through this can ASEAN continue to matter and become the epicentrum of growth,” Retno said.
Great power rivalry has become a concern for many people in the region. According to the 2023 State of Southeast Asia report, a whopping 73 percent of the surveyed Southeast Asians believe ASEAN is becoming an arena for major power competition. They also fear the ASEAN member states might be proxies of major powers. The survey had 1,308 respondents from 10 Southeast Asian countries.