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The idea of ​​establishing ASEAN Maritime Community and strengthening ASEAN in Indonesia's foreign policy maneuvers
Author : Rohman Wibowo and Randy Adiwinata, students of International Relations of the National University and members of Vox Muda

Presented in a roundtable seminar of experts on the theme "Building tyhe strategies of balance of power in reactualizing Indonesia's free and active foreign policy", organized by the Global Future Institute (GFI) in collaboration with the students of the Faculty of International Relations of National University that are members of Vox Muda on Monday, December 5, 2016, in Jakarta.

Formulating foreign policy is a must for every country in order to survive in the arena of international political system. The formulation is inseparable from what the so-called national power. As Henry Kissinger declared that "Power was relatively homogeneous; its various elements- economic, military, or political-complemented one another." Moreover, the geopolitical perspective is also talking about national power through Rudolf Kjellen assuming that a country should have 3 elements namely strength, power, and wealth.

Indonesia, through the awareness of national power, should reconsider instead of neglecting its geopolitical fate that is characterized by a maritime and agricultural country. Especially in the maritime field, the formulation of Indonesia's foreign policy which is based on the scent of maritime is in line with the contemporary international phenomenon. Imagine! Shipping and international trade flows inevitably must pass through the territorial waters of Indonesia.

Given the grace of Indonesia's geographic potential having strategically the Sea Lanes of Communication and Sea Lanes of Trade, all this has led the country that is in Southeast Asia as the center of gravity. Therefore, Indonesia must knit an identity on the basis of awareness of living space. On this stand, an organization called ASEAN is an important element.

The ASEAN role in smoothing the Indonesian step to actualize the national power by marerializing the fulfillment of its national interest, is inseparable from "half-attention" of ASEAN countries related to the maritime aspect. That is why when the ASEAN Maritime Forum changed and became the Expand ASEAN Maritime Forum can be considerably a failure in maintaining the regional common interests.

Referring to the failure of previous schemes, Indonesia must again become the initiator giving birth to new ideas in the maritime sphere in the region. In this case, the new scheme is called ASEAN Maritime Community. This scheme is based on the assumption that integration in the ASEAN Community has not optimally accommodated the maritime interests. Imagine, if there is no clear scheme to the region having a chocke point like the Southeast Asian region.

The projection of Indonesia in the ASEAN Community is to make it as a key player. In order to realize the key player, Indonesia must rearrange its living space as a maritime-characterized state. Indonesia certainly would accept the any consequences by making itself as a flag state, port state and coastal state.

Starting with the so-called flag state. It could loosely be defined as such dominantly Indonesian flag vessels than the foreign vessels in the deep waters. This leads to the presence of the state as a stakeholder to make policies. Therefore, the principle of cabotage is a relevant policy. Indeed, the principle is aimed at strengthening and reinforcing the sovereignty of the island nation in the service of shipping and trade in deep water. The cabotage also gives effect to Indonesia. First, the presence of investors, leading to possible transfer of science and technology, in addition to absorbing labors. Of course in this case, there will be a boon for the people of Indonesia as sources of job.

Second, the principle of cabotage could give impact on the number of ships on the port. In this case, the ships will provide economic activity in the mainland, Such as freight goods by freight companies and workers as the subject. Third, the principle of cabotage will run simultaneously with the presence of port in different places of transit of red and white flag ships and also foreign ones. In turn, the dynamism of local vessels will provide fresh air to the standardization of good harbors.

Fourth, the principle of infrastructure. In this case, the Indonesia's ships  will be the main pillar in the ministry of trade through sea transportation. So the demand for the services requested by the market could be addressed by Indonesian ships. Therefore, there will be the creation of adequate  ublic service (sea transport). Fifth, there will be regulations and investments. In this case, the services of shipping and trade via sea will be the focus of the government. There will the creation of regulations that govern the shipping and marine governance, as well as regulations concerning investment. Naturally, the maritime sovereignty through regulations determined by the Indonesian government will provide revenue for the state treasury.

In addition, Indonesia as an archipelagic is characterized by the so-called port state. In this case, the existence of international scale ports is the essence of the port state. Indonesia which is located in a cross position between two oceans, namely Indonesian and Pacific oceans, as well as between two continents, Asia and Australia. On account of the cross position, Indonesia is the world's traffic lane, in which a lot of ships will pass through the waters of Indonesia. This is congruent with the principle of peaceful traffic rights of foreign ships conducting naval shipping and trade.

With these facts, Indonesia will be an option for foreign ships to unload the contents of the ships. It will happen following the presence of connectivity between state agencies in providing international class ports. And the last is the living space as a coastal state. In this regard, Indonesia should focus itself on becoming a coastal state. The problems facing the coastal state could be such problems as the continental shelf, territorial sea boundary line, the exclusive economic zone, additional lanes and so on.

In the end, the idea of ​​ASEAN Maritime Community with Indonesia as a Key Player will maximize its national power in formulating foreign policy, in order to defend all national interests and maintain its existence in the arena of international political system that is increasingly dynamic and anarchist.

The Asian - African Conference is a special meeting of the non-aligned countries producing the so-called Dasa Sila Bandung and Indonesia's free and active foreign policy. Indonesia, which at that time was a country that was born after World War II under the pressure of two major forces, namely the West capitalist bloc and the communist Soviet one. Not only Indonesia, the countries of the post-world war II such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, and Myanmar also participated in initiating Asian-African Conference.

In its later development, Indonesia's free and active foreign policy also brought it into the stronghold of the non-aligned countries such as Yugoslavia, India, Egypt, Pakistan, Cuba, Colombia, Venezuela, South Africa, Iran, and Malaysia. It is not just as a policy of dealing t=with the hegemony of Soviet and the United States - the European Union, but also as an opportunity for non-aligned movement countries to build a more independent economic cooperation. Inevitably there were non-aligned countries, in turn favoring certain big country, and in this case Soviet, such as Cuba and India, including Indonesia.

ASEAN, which is considerably an association of the non-aligned countries and pioneered the free and active foreign policy in the Asian region attempted to be free of the influence of the big countries, especially the United States and the  European Union, could ASEAN and Indonesia be free of the influence?

First, most non-aligned states in the era of the bipolar world (the Soviet bloc and the Western bloc) no one could really - really be not in favor of one faction, particularly in the fields of politics and defense. In the conflict in the Cold War era eg Egypt was in favor of the Soviet bloc during the Arab - Israeli war, while Indonesia, at that time was also sided with the Soviet Bloc and Malaysia - Singapore on the West Bloc. Even in the field of defense as that in ASEAN today like the Five Power Defence Agreement (FPDA) which imposed a defense pact which involves the partiality of Malaysia - Singapore, it has the potential to increase possible insecurity in the region. Then in the economy in ASEAN, such countries as Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, and Singapore chose to join the TPP, and it could provoke the US hegemony towards the ASEAN economic integrity. On December 1, 2016 straitstimes.com reported that President of Singapore Tony Tan had met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to discuss the ratification accelleration of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which will be signed in February 2018. The two countries also sought the the US Pivot strategy in Asia, especially ASEAN.

Second, from the cases  explained above in term of the political situation in the ASEAN, Indonesia would be very difficulty in facing pressure from the US and the European Union. Indonesia is still very dependent on multinational investments to shore up the country's economy. This dependency will make Indonesia easily trapped into the games of multinational regulatory of TPP countries, the US, and the European Union. Not only in Indonesia, but also ASEAN countries that have dependency like Indonesia will experience the same thing. The level of Indonesia's dependence on multinational investment is very high due to the lack of production technology of ASEAN countries, especially Indonesia, all of it is owned by the multinational not to the local ones.

So that ASEAN and Indonesia will be very difficult to escape the scheme of hegemonic politics of the US and EU, as well as the Indonesia's free and active foreign policy will also be very difficult to be implemented because of the capability of the Indonesian economy and the factors of external political dynamics continuing to press developing and non-aligned countries like Indonesia. In response to this situation, Indonesia also has to find a political alternative to stem the discriminative political economy of the US - EU and others to offset the countries, for example building various economic cooperation with non-aligned countries that more independent or with Russia that can deal with the US and EU hegemony.


1.    Dam, Syamsumar. 2010. Politik Kelautan. Jakarta:Bumi Aksara
2.   Kissenger, Henry. 2002 Foreign Policy: Crisis, Does America Need a Foreign Policy. USA: Simon&Schuster
3.   Fliint, Colin. 2006. Intoduction To Geopolitics. New York: Routledge
 4.  Yani, Ahmad & Hayati,Sri. 2007. Geografi Politik. Bandung: Refika Aditama

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