See Quad as partner, not competitor: Indonesia
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has described Quad and Aukus as “partners and not competitors” to the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean). The apparent change of heart, which comes ahead of the May 24 Quad summit in Sydney, is being viewed as a positive in India that shares a common maritime boundary with Indonesia.
Indonesia‘s President Joko Widodo has described Quad and Aukus as “partners and not competitors” to the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean).
The apparent change of heart, which comes ahead of the May 24 Quad summit in Sydney, is being viewed as a positive in India that shares a common maritime boundary with Indonesia.
Quad comprises India, the US, Australia and Japan, while Aukus is a security partnership between Australia, the UK and the US.
“Asean is the only regional organisation that offers various forms of diplomacy,” Widodo said in an interview to a channel from Malaysia this week as he hosted the Asean leaders for a summit. “Asean’s principle is collaboration, cooperation and active involvement. We don’t want any conflict. We do not want isolation. To me, we should view the Quad and Aukus as partners, and not competitors. With regard to anything that happens in this region, Asean’s aim is to make the region a stable and peaceful one. Without these two elements, it is unlikely for the people of Asean to achieve prosperity.”
When Aukus was first announced, Indonesia—the largest country in Southeast Asia—had expressed reservations that this could lead to an arms race in the Indo-Pacific region.
China has been describing Quad as a bloc akin to Nato, although Quad is not a military alliance and India has no plans to enter into a military pact in the region.
Widodo’s comment ahead of the Sydney Quad summit may pave the way for future cooperation between the group and Asean that would stabilise the Indo-Pacific region.
“Asean’s position is clear in that we want the South China Sea to be an area that is stable, peaceful and prosperous. This is what all of Asean wants. The key to this is adherence to international law, to the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) 1982. This is the key. All claims that have no basis should not take place. As such, we have the key. Obey international law. Asean will continue to push towards stability in the area,” Widodo said in an indirect reference to China’s aggression in the South China Sea region.
“For Indonesia in its leadership of Asean, we do not want Asean to be anyone’s proxy. It cannot be a proxy to another nation. Asean by nature is open and inclusive. What we want is to ensure economic cooperation with all quarters based on the foundations of equality, mutual respect as well as mutual benefit. This is something we will continue to stress. As such, what we want to strengthen isn’t just government-to-government relations, but also society-to-society. This is also what we will continue to emphasise,” Widodo said, making it clear that Asean will continue to chart an independent path.
In order to handle pandemics like Covid in future, Asean has established an Asean Response Fund. All Asean member states will contribute to the fund. This is important as during a pandemic, funds would be needed to buy vaccines, medicine and medical supplies, the Indonesian president said, adding Asean will also expedite the operation of the Asean Centre for Public Health Emergency and Emerging Disease.
( Originally published on May 12, 2023 )
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