04
July
2019

ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific: Towards New Cooperation in the Strategic Landscape

04
July
2019

ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific: Towards New Cooperation in the Strategic Landscape

1,713

The adoption of “ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific” during the 34th ASEAN Summit in Thailand in late June will ensure ASEAN continued centrality in regional security, secure its role in enhancing partnership with external partners and guide its future actions amid changing global geopolitics.

“The document was based on the idea of connecting the Pacific and Indian oceans to move forward with everyone’s interest in mind, and is not a direct response to the superpowers’ strategies on Indo-Pacific,” said Suriya Chindawongse, Director General of the Foreign Ministry’s ASEAN Affairs Department.

“The ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific is a regional proposal initiated by ASEAN to promote concrete cooperation based on the concept of ASEAN centrality in the regional security architecture,” DG Suriya said.

“ASEAN has mulled over this proposal for long time. We do this for our collective interest, rather than looking at the proposals of superpowers outside our region. And we will utilise the existing mechanisms to connect the two oceans for our mutual benefit.”

ASEAN earlier came up with the idea of creating a common stance on the changing geopolitical scene when its leaders gathered at the East Asia Summit in the Philippines in 2017. Then, four countries proposed different ideas for dealing with changing circumstances. Thai Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha told the meeting ASEAN should play a role in linking the Pacific and Indian oceans. Since then, the leaders tasked Indonesia to undertake a comprehensive study and draft a concept paper for their consideration. After consulting with Thailand, as the current Chair, as well as other ASEAN Member States, the leaders finally adopted the outcome at the Bangkok Summit during 22-23 June 2019.

The ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific is based on the principles such as strengthening ASEAN centrality, inclusiveness, complementarity with existing cooperation frameworks, equality, mutual respect, mutual trust, and mutual benefit. It recognises the continuing importance, relevance and positive contributions of the principles emphasised in the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) to sustaining peace and stability in the region, he added.

While the document is not exactly a common strategy of regional countries, DG Suriya said it could extend far beyond being just an outlook, as its name might suggest, and should instead be considered an “ASEAN vista” that is flexible in accordance with changing circumstances in future.

The “ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific” comprises four areas of concrete cooperation: maritime cooperation, connectivity, the 2030 United Nations Agenda for Sustainable Development, and economic cooperation. Thailand, as the current chair of ASEAN, is emphasising connectivity and sustainable development, which is in accordance with Thailand’s ASEAN Chairmanship theme of “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability”. ASEAN will, from now on, invite external parties to support and collaborate on the ASEAN initiative.

“This document is not meant to be protectionist – we will go forward together and leave no one behind,” DG Suriya said. “If any Dialogue Partners have any thoughts about joining or cooperating especially on connectivity, we would certainly welcome them.”

DG Suriya said ASEAN did not see the need to create any new mechanism to incorporate new proposals or projects from partners. The existing Plus Three (China, Japan and South Korea) and Plus Eight (East Asia Summit) frameworks could accommodate such proposals.

ASEAN can use this new document to enhance connectivity with partners in many ways, DG Suriya added. These include physical connectivity, such as infrastructure development, and institutional connectivity, that will facilitate digital economy, enhance economic growth and promote sustainability in all dimensions.

 

Source: http://www.nationthailand.com/recommended/644