In the Indo-Pacific, Jokowi needs to be more assertive and engaged

A revised version of this commentary has been published in The Jakarta Post, 22 June 2019. For citation purposes, please refer to the published version. This is a pre-submission final draft and should not be cited.

If Indonesia wishes to make any meaningful strides in advancing its Indo-Pacific Cooperation Concept, Jokowi would need to focus on engaging ASEAN leaders instead of focusing more on domestic policy.

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Le’ Notes #42: What’s the buzz behind the Indo-Pacific?

This post covers the debate about the “Indo-Pacific” geopolitical construct. How do states understand it? What is its significance?

In the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (S.2736; or often abbreviated as ARIA) passed by Congress in 2018, the term “Indo-Pacific” appears 80 times. The bill affirms U.S. commitment to secure its national interests, promote American prosperity, advance U.S. influence, support regional architecture, and support international law and norms in the Indo-Pacific. It also makes mention of numerous U.S. security arrangements in the region, most notably the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad, for short), a controversial four-country—U.S., Japan, India, and Australia—security “club” intended to counter Chinese influence in the region. All in all, it looks like the U.S. has a new geopolitical focus: the Indo-Pacific.

But wait a minute, what is the Indo-Pacific? Who’s in it? Why are we just talking about it now? And how is it different from the “Asia-Pacific”? Answering those questions is the point of this post. Now, since I cannot cover everything in around 1,000-2,000 words, I’ll only go through the essentials. For further reading, just click the hyperlinks.

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Semtext #6: ASEAN Centrality in the Indo-Pacific

This post is a collection of notes from four speakers regarding ASEAN centrality in the Indo-Pacific.

The term “Indo-Pacific” has re-emerged in IR discourse as an alternative term for “Asia-Pacific”. However, it has been around since 2005, but only now has it become popular again since President Trump repeated it over and over again in his 2017 tour of Asia. This hints at a renewed US interest in Asia, which is likely due to China’s assertive behavior in both the Pacific and Indian Ocean Rim.

So, what is the Indo-Pacific? Is it simply another catchy buzzword or is it a real geopolitical construct that’s here to stay? If it’s here to stay, what’s the underlying narrative? Is it meant to denote an “inclusive” area where the interests of all countries within its scope are represented, or is it meant to represent the exclusive interests of a group of big guys? Does ASEAN have a say in this?

Present to speak were Prof. Raja Mohan from the Institute of South Asian Studies, Ridwan Djamaluddin from the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Dr. Evi Fitriani from the University of Indonesia, and Endy Bayuni, former chief editor of the Jakarta Post. I’ll write their main talking points, along with my commentary afterwards.

Just a quick note: I left my notebook at the seminar venue (stupid me), so I have to rely on memory and a bad recording of the talks. I should really invest in a proper voice recorder instead of relying on my phone.

You can also download some of the speaker’s PowerPoints here!

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Semtext #5: Brian Harding – Trump’s Asia Policy

This SemText is a recap of Brian Harding’s talk on Trump’s Asia policy, in which he attempts to generally explain what Trump has in store for Asia.

I just realized I haven’t updated this column for almost two years. Hopefully, that will change as I’ve tried to make a commitment to join at least one seminar every month. Anyway, as a re-opening of this column, these are some notes from Brian Harding’s talk on Trump’s Asia policy.

In this seminar organized by the Centre of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Indonesia, Harding, a Fellow of the Southeast Asia program at the Center of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, tries to explain what Trump’s foreign policy in Asia is like.

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THOUGHTS AND COFFEE #5: Indonesia’s Global Maritime Fulcrum: An Updated Archipelagic Outlook?

This article was originally published in The Diplomat, 17 December 2016.

Download the PDF here.


The previous Archipelagic Outlook strategy was inward focused; the new policy looks beyond Indonesia’s borders.

A recently published document titled Buku Putih Poros Maritim Dunia [Global Maritime Fulcrum White Paper] finally brings an authoritative voice to Indonesia’s Global Maritime Fulcrum (GMF) vision. The objective-oriented, 53-page publication constructs a narrative on the importance of the seas to Indonesia, the future trajectory of the GMF as Indonesia’s maritime vision, and the possible ways to achieve those ambitious ends.

Although the concept of the GMF was christened by President Joko Widodo, the policy objectives stated in the GMF White Paper are still largely rooted in the Archipelagic Outlook (Wawasan Nusantara). The GMF White Paper lists the Archipelagic Outlook as one of six fundamental principles on which the GMF is supposed to be founded. Is the GMF just really the Archipelagic Outlook with a new coat of paint? Or is it a shift from its predecessor?

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