Our Region (Spotlight Brief 1/21)
Australian Army Research Centre Spotlight Briefs provide a periodically released curated overview of issues relevant to Australian Landpower. Spotlight Briefs derive solely from available open source material. Inclusion of material in a Spotlight Brief does not imply or reflect Australian Army, Australian Defence Force or Australian Commonwealth Government policy.
Source: Asian Security – Jun 20
The ASEAN states lie astride the fulcrum of the Indo-Pacific region. That fact, their proximity to our continent, historical ties, and increasing trade and people linkages make ASEAN of vital regional interest to Australia. The authors examine the possibility of emergent security sectorial leadership from Vietnam within ASEAN. As Vietnam grows in importance within the region, and its emergence as a stakeholder continues, its role with ASEAN may increase. An example is Vietnam’s efforts in the raising of the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (which includes Australia). Understanding regional security concerns and ASEAN nation’s strategic goals can help Australia further develop the engagement and strong partnerships which support Australian and regional partner interests.
Australian Diplomat Walter Crocker presciently noted in a 1956 dispatch from Jakarta: ‘The emergence of China as the major regional power and its growing impact on Australia’s neighbourhood was a fact “as inescapable as the weather”’. He further observed ‘Geography had decreed that Indonesia lay between Australia and the Sinic (sic) world’. For these, and other reasons, Australia remains deeply interested in both nations and their bi-lateral relations. In this article the author, an Associate Professor at Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta, assesses the likely arc of bilateral relations between China and Indonesia during Joko Widodo’s second term as Indonesia’s President. He asserts there is pragmatism driving closer economic cooperation between Indonesia and China. This is evident in the 66 bilateral agreements covering various areas of cooperation, including infrastructure, science and technology, culture, law enforcement, tourism, education, health, environment, and anti-terrorism signed between Jakarta and Beijing. However, it would be wrong to expect Jakarta will cede to China on ‘long-standing thorny issues [such] as maritime disputes and anti-Chinese sentiments’. The article concludes contemporary Indonesia is better able to pursue a ‘free and active’ foreign policy commensurate with its size and location than in previous eras. Understanding the various nuances in the Indonesia – China relationship, is useful to guide our ongoing engagement with both nations.
The views expressed in this article and subsequent comments are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.
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