Jakarta, IO – The ASEAN Summit, hosted by Indonesia, will meet at the Resort town of Labuan Bajo in Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT), from May 9-11. ASEAN Leaders get together twice a year, hosted by the country holding that year’s Chairmanship, which rotates alphabetically. Indonesia holds the Chairmanship in 2023, followed by India next year. The agenda will cover economic, politics, social and cultural aspects, which has always been the case, with a background of recent developments in each of those fields as issues for discussion.
In my view, this year is very important for Indonesia to lead all the ten members facing a pivotal time, where there are urgent developments in all fields globally to appraise and study the implications. The Russia-Ukraine war has not slowed down; there is no light at the end of the tunnel yet. But ASEAN must continue to uphold its stance in support of the UN Security Council resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
In my view, ASEAN should come to a decision regarding the emergence of a plan for the establishment of a BRICS Currency Union, which has recently gathered more support from countries that show their intention of joining, including Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Algeria and Egypt. At issue now is the question: “Would ASEAN consider joining the initiative”? I could only hope that a thorough study would be carried out first, before deciding one way or another. For sure, a currency unit cannot be based merely on political will; it must have a solid economic, trade and financial foundation, as for instance regarding the existence of economic and financial compatibility between members. And this must be based on facts from practices, not from agreement alone, and certainly not from overriding political considerations. Sure, it must be supported by a willingness to work together, but not started with it. I still remember how we in ASEAN, even among the original five, had difficulty in creating an ASEAN Currency Unit. This is not an easy subject, with many economic implications which I think demand serious study first. In short, I hope the Summit will not make any commitment in this session and will act wisely prior to making any final decision.
In politics, at this juncture, when there was a voice coming from France President Emmanuel Macron, where he seemed asking his EU colleagues to definitely set an EU position regarding the global competition of powers, between the US and China, regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the Taiwan issue, instead of simply obediently following the US lead. In other words, he seemed to be proposing the establishment by the EU of a new pilar of power, to stand between China and the US.
I never heard of any ambition among ASEAN members, whether the original five or the present ten, that ASEAN would want to stand on its own, in terms of political power. We do not want to join any other power as well, especially ASEAN will not become trapped in a defense pact, despite our concern about security. That has been ASEAN foundation from the time it was established in 1957, and it is not about to change as well. We are not interested in any superpower struggle. That is my understanding about ASEAN on this matter. Instead, ASEAN through fora of dialogue partners, attempts to create a consensus, jointly facing new global challenges.
As the title suggests, this is an excellent time for Indonesia, as the largest country in terms of population and geography, to optimize its position as Chairman to come up with meaningful suggestions to deal with the urgent issues alluded above. With so much going on politically, security and economically, this time ASEAN faces new challenges, yet also it is a good chance to show its diplomatic skill, in the effort to convince all other leaders to agree and take common stands in finding solutions to issues we all face.
As I mentioned in my precious column, ASEAN still needs to decide what to do regarding the problems of human right violations in Cambodia against the Rohingya, that urgently need a solution. At least, as stated by Malaysian PM Anwar Ibrahim on the occasion he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Politics, Economics and Government Management by the University of Philippines in Manila, that we cannot afford to be indifferent, seeing all these human right violations happening in our member country, despite our stand for non-interference in domestic concerns, as stated in the Statute. Is it not about time that ASEAN make an acceptable agreement between the Cambodian Junta and the Rohingya Representatives, under the supervision of the UN Office, with ASEAN witnessing? I do not know whether this makes any sense at all, but I am in full support of what PM Anwar Ibrahim said, that we cannot and should not remain silent and indifferent, looking at these blatant human right violations against the Rohingyas without any party to support them.