President Joko Widodo chaired two of three meetings on the second day of the 42nd ASEAN Summit at Meruorah Hotel in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara (NTT), on Thursday.
The two meetings were the Retreat Session and the Indonesia-Malaysia-Thailand Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) Summit.
In his speech at the opening of the ASEAN Summit Retreat Session, Widodo highlighted two important issues that became the focus of discussion, namely the reviews of the implementation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) and the Five-Point Consensus (5PC) for handling the crisis in Myanmar.
Through the two focuses of discussion, Indonesia, as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) 2023, encouraged the members of the grouping to move forward together to increase cooperation and reduce tensions in the region, both in the Southeast Asian region and the wider region, including the Indo-Pacific.
For this reason, regarding the implementation of AOIP, President Widodo invited ASEAN members to work in synergy to ease rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific region, which covers the Asia-Pacific and the Indian Ocean.
One way to ease tensions in the region is by implementing the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), he said.
"A concrete and inclusive cooperation is essential to ease tensions in the Indo-Pacific. We can use the AOIP as a concrete platform for cooperation with partner countries," he added.
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The Indo-Pacific is the world's fastest-growing region and accounts for 65 percent of the global economy. Global powers have struggled for influence over the region given the fact that it is home to half of the world's population.
At Indonesia's initiative, ASEAN launched the AOIP in 2019 to affirm the bloc's position in playing its role to maintain peace, security, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
The AOIP prioritizes the practices of open and inclusive dialogue and cooperation instead of competition and rivalry. Through the outlook, ASEAN has affirmed that it will not defer to any great power and will continue to maintain peace in the Indo-Pacific region.
To strengthen the spirit of cooperation in the region, during its ASEAN chairmanship, Indonesia will hold several main events under the ASEAN-Indo-Pacific forum as part of efforts to implement the AOIP.
Apart from the infrastructure forum, the events will include youth dialogue and digital development in support of sustainable development (SDGs), the creative economy forum, and the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit.
Not only in the Indo-Pacific region, ASEAN has also continued to try to ease tensions within its region, namely by helping tackle political and humanitarian crises in one of its member countries, Myanmar.
ASEAN has urged the junta to implement a Five-Point Consensus peace plan, which was agreed upon in April 2021 and calls for a cessation of violence, dialogue with all stakeholders, and permission for the provision of humanitarian assistance to the people of Myanmar.
Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi said on Tuesday (May 9) that the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus was discussed with ASEAN foreign ministers ahead of the 42nd ASEAN Summit.
As ASEAN chair, Indonesia has chosen to conduct non-megaphone diplomacy for resolving the Myanmar issue. Measures have been taken to provide a space for all parties to build trust and open communication, Marsudi added.
Earlier, in a joint statement released on Wednesday, ASEAN member countries expressed support for Indonesia's efforts to continue dialogue with several stakeholders in Myanmar.
Through the declaration, member countries also voiced support for President Widodo’s statement in response to the recent attacks against the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Management (AHA Centre) and the ASEAN monitoring team in Myanmar.
"We support the efforts of the ASEAN chair, including Indonesia's efforts in continuing the engagement of stakeholders in Myanmar and encouraging progress on the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus," the statement read.
At the opening of the ASEAN Summit Retreat Session on Thursday, Widodo said that Indonesia, as ASEAN chair, has continuously strived for progress in the implementation of the 5PC, and through engagements with various parties, called for an inclusive dialogue, cessation of violence, conclusion of the Joint Needs Assessment (JNA) through AHA Center, and the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
However, he admitted that no significant progress has been made in the implementation of the 5PC.
"I must speak candidly. On the implementation of the 5PC, there has not been significant progress. Therefore, ASEAN unity is required to decide on the next steps," he said.
President Widodo and Minister Marsudi also emphasized that the lack of progress in the implementation of the 5PC did not mean that ASEAN has to give up on the conditions in Myanmar.
In fact, it means that ASEAN must be more united to help fellow member countries, especially Myanmar to get out of the crisis, so that all ASEAN members “can move forward together and leave no one behind.”
Furthermore, he emphasized that issues related to the current situation in Myanmar should not hinder efforts to accelerate the development of the ASEAN community.
"But I also want to ensure that the issue of Myanmar must not hinder the acceleration of ASEAN Community building because community building is awaited by the people of ASEAN,” he remarked.
For its ASEAN chairmanship, Indonesia has raised the theme of "ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth" that reflects its push to make ASEAN important and relevant as a global center of growth.
Indonesia is seeking to strengthen ASEAN's capacity and institutional effectiveness in the hopes of readying the bloc to face challenges in the next two decades.
It has also committed to supporting the Southeast Asian region in achieving the ASEAN 2045 vision by making it more adaptive, responsive, and competitive through various measures that are in line with the principles contained in the ASEAN Charter.
In addition, Indonesia is willing to lead ASEAN countries in efforts to strengthen economic recovery and make the region an engine of sustainable growth.
The ASEAN was established in Bangkok, Thailand, on August 8, 1967. Today, the association comprises 10 regional countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam.
In November 2022, member countries agreed, in principle, to accept Timor-Leste as the 11th member of ASEAN. Currently, Timor-Leste is taking the steps required to gain full membership in the bloc.
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ASEAN striving to boost cooperation, ease tensions in region
11th May 2023