ASEAN must provide vision: former Indonesian foreign minister

12 December 2018

Former Indonesian foreign minister Dr Marty Natalegawa has challenged the Association of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) to provide leadership and vision or risk regressing at the Australian launch of his new book, Does ASEAN Matter? A View from Within, at The Australian National University (ANU).

Established in 1967, ASEAN has transformed relations between Southeast Asian states, according to Dr Natalegawa, who served as foreign minister of ASEAN’s most populous member from 2009 to 2014.

“Prior to ASEAN, we had a situation where Southeast Asian countries were essentially either in open conflict with one another or having very deep tensions or deep distrust of one another,” he said.

“Through ASEAN we saw the transformation of a trust deficit to strategic trust, where the notion of having an open conflict among Southeast Asian states…became less likely.”

Dr Natalegawa, who completed his doctorate at ANU in 1993, suggested ASEAN’s progress may be flagging.

“I get the impression that notwithstanding our potential…ASEAN is beginning to regress,” said Dr Natalegawa.

In particular, he criticised the organisation’s silence on the violence in Myanmar and called on it to provide a coherent and cohesive response to current United States-China tensions.

“It is relatively easy [for ASEAN] to organise events and summits, but it requires far more diplomatic finesse and heft and thought to provide the narrative at those gatherings,” said Dr Natalegawa.

“We are at a crucial stage in this part of the world…ASEAN must have a script on these types of issues.”

Watch the full interview between Dr Natalegawa and Professor John Blaxland, Director of ANU Southeast Asia Institute.

The book is available for purchase from ISEAS Publishing.

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