Indonesian FM Upbeat About Malaysia’s 2015 Chairmanship Of Asean

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NEW YORK, Sept 30 – Indonesian foreign minister, Dr Marty Natalegawa, presently visiting New York to attend the ongoing 69th United Nations General Assembly, is upbeat about Malaysia’s chairmanship of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in 2015, and says that Malaysia will not only chair but also “lead the Asean.” “Malaysia will be the chair of Asean in 2015 and will be shepherding us until December 2015. Indeed, Malaysia will not only chair but also lead Asean in a very substantive manner until the end of 2015.

“We will be simply codifying a process that began in the past decade or so. Malaysia’s leadership will be in all three pillars of Asean ever since Indonesia’s last chairmanship of the group,” Marty told Bernama when asked to give his take on Malaysia’s Asean chairmanship next year. Indonesia was Asean’s chairman in 2011 which saw the Bali declaration on Asean community in a global community, the Bali Concord III, focusing on the three pillars of the Asean namely politics and security, economy and socio-culture.

When Malaysia takes over the Asean chairmanship from Myanmar in 2015, it will also see the set up of the Asean Community (AC) end December. Marty was addressing Monday the Asia Society in New York, an institution which has been promoting relations in Asia and also affords a prominent platform for visiting Asian political, business and cultural leaders. “Malaysia will be an effective chairman and leader of the Asean,” Nalategawa said.

He also commented on the code of conduct which the Asean group has been striving for the South China Seas in an attempt to defuse tensions and reduce the possibility of an armed conflict over the disputed islands in the region’s waters. “The diplomatic side of the initiative is very positive. Two years ago, we could not even have informal talks but now we are having a formal discussion on this subject,” he said, adding that Asean had an “early harvest” manifested in the establishment of a hotline for communication, search and rescue in the waters, avoidance of conflict.

The Indonesian foreign minister also touched on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. “There is perfect disorder in the world and we work in disharmony,” he admonished. He was also critical of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) which was no longer local or regional but was becoming transnational that could affect distant countries, including Indonesia and the the US. “I have a problem with the term fighters (as ISIS calls them). They (ISIS) are not fighters, they are terrorists,” he said.

He also said that the time had come for Southeast Asia to be a “net contributor” to world peace, and emphasised that the Asean community has a “sufficient portfolio of experience,” having moved from open conflict in the past to more tolerant and amicable coexistence. He cited as examples the recent Indonesia-Singapore and Indonesia-Philippine agreements on maritime boundaries. “We know that we still have problems in Asean but we also agree that we are not going to resolve these problems by resorting to the use of force,” he said.

But Marty also rejected the concept of collective security, saying that Asean preferred “common security” which connotes that any steps taken should not be at the expense of each other. Touching on the contours of Indonesia’s foreign policy under the newly-elected President Joko Widodo, he envisaged that the new President’s foreign policy would be characterised by continuity possibly with some changes.

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