"Indonesia has weight, international legitimacy and global appeal to draw tremendous support and attention from around the world to the ASEAN community building efforts that we are all engaging in now," Dr Surin said as quoted on the official website of the ASEAN Secretariat early this year.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was committed to leading the regional grouping meaningfully under his chairmanship themed "ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations".
The theme implied Indonesia`s determination to be engaged, proactively and use the ASEAN platform to enhance ASEAN`s profile in the global arena
"I do not want just the success of organizing the ASEAN Summits, related Summits and Ministerial Meetings," said the President last January, adding that he wanted to make sure that his ASEAN chairmanship must produce significant and concrete outcomes.
Indonesia was in 1967 one of the founders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which now groups Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
With hard work and the support of various parties, especially Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa, and cooperation from other ASEAN member countries, Indonesia played its chairmanship role so well that there is now wide acknowledgement it has succeeded in bringing ASEAN to a higher level of progress and achievement.
Commendations came from among others UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who praised the Indonesian leadership in ASEAN in advancing and expanding regional cooperation through the sixth summit of East Asia with 18 countries participating.
"I really appreciate the leadership of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as ASEAN Chairman through the summit, which the substance to promote and expand regional cooperation," said Ban Ki-moon in a special interview with ANTARA in Nusa Dua, Bali, on the sidelines of the 19th ASEAN Summit and related Summits, November 2011.
The long journey of ASEAN regional cooperation which then was expanded with ASEAN +3 Summit and East Asia Summit brought together 18 countries with a total population of 3.7 billion is an achievement, he said.
Ban Ki-moon presented President Yudhoyono a "Global Champion of Disaster Risk Reduction" award from the United Nations on the occasion.
"The East Asia Summit (EAS) is now one of the largest regional cooperation forums in the world. I am proud to see this as a reality," he added.
The EAS has expanded from a 16- to an 18-country grouping, with the formal invitation to the Russian Federation and the United States, who seek to engage more closely with the region.
The inclusion of the US and Russia in the EAS was proposed by Indonesia in order to achieve a dynamic equilibrium, Marty Natalegawa once explained.
US President Barack Obama for the first time joined the sixth EAS which was attended also by the leaders of Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam, China, Australia, Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand, Russia and the United States.
Obama congratulated Indonesia on its chairmanship of ASEAN and the EAS and the country`s efforts to promote regional security, nuclear non-proliferation, and disarmament; and commitment to making democracy and human rights platforms for ASEAN`s development.
"Finally, I convey to President Yudhoyono our appreciation of Indonesia`s regional leadership, which has helped us to achieve real progress on issues like disaster relief, maritime security, and nonproliferation. And I thank him for Indonesia`s efforts to promote democracy and human rights, and advance security and peace," Obama said in a statement issued after a bilateral meeting with Yudhoyono on the sidelines of the sixth EAS, in Bali, Nov 18.
Singapore`s Foreign Minister K Shanmugam in an interview with Channel NewsAsia, recently, said ASEAN had progressed well under the strong and able leadership of Indonesia.
"In the Thai-Cambodian dispute, Indonesia, as Chair of ASEAN, together with the other ASEAN countries, played a very useful role and the role that Indonesia played was mentioned by the International Court of Justice," said Shanmugam, adding that Indonesia as the ASEAN Chair 2011 had done well.
Specifically Dr Surin Pitsuwan mentioned to Tempo recently that Minister Marty Natalegawa should get credit for purposefully changing how ASEAN is viewed today by its member states.
"Do not underestimate the powers of Indonesia", the ASEAN Secretary General said, adding that. "Indonesia did splendidly", on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in Bali.
He recalled that initially ASEAN had been seen as a regional bloc constricted by its non-interference policy. But, following Indonesia`s chairmanship, ASEAN has transformed significantly into a regional grouping whose members can come to the table and expect to resolve disputes and expand economic collaboration.
Another appreciation, according to Tempo, came from Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak who praised Indonesia`s role as ASEAN chair in drawing superpowers to attend the EAS.
Najib said that President Obama, "would not waste" his time coming all the way here if he did not see any value in it. Neither would the President of China.
On a separate occasion, on November 28, 2011, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay commended Indonesia`s "very positive" approach to human rights during its 2011 chairmanship of ASEAN and ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), and its vice-chairmanship of a second human rights body, the ASEAN Commission for Women and Children.
This year, Indonesia hosted the 18th ASEAN Summit in Jakarta in May, and the 19th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Bali, November 14-19. Previously, ASEAN Summits had been held in this country in 1979 and 2003.
In 1976, when Indonesia chaired ASEAN, member states produced the Bali Concord I, which was based on the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC).
It laid out the rules of the game for ASEAN and also for other powers that wanted to engage in any form of cooperation with ASEAN.
In 2003, ASEAN produced the Bali Concord II, which initiated the ASEAN Economic Community.
And this year, the Bali Declaration on ASEAN Community in a Global Community of Nations or the Bali Concord III was adopted during the 19th ASEAN Summit, to support its greater role globally.
The Bali Concord III was signed by the ten ASEAN leaders, namely Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Sultan Hasanal Bolkiah of Brunei Darussalam, Laos Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong, President of Myanmar Thein Sein, Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, Filipino President Benigno Aquino III, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dun, and President Yudhoyono.
The Summit also adopted Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Partnership between ASEAN and the United Nations.
President Yudhoyono mentioned nine main achievements made during the 19th ASEAN Summits and Related Summits.
The achievements were producing concrete measures to strengthen the three pillars of ASEAN community; strengthening regional economic growth; assuming a pivotal role in building a more efficient and effective architecture for regional cooperation; maintaining South East Asia regional stability and security; strengthening the role of ASEAN globally; promoting joint efforts to strengthen the economy of East Asia (East region); boosting joint efforts to develop platform and real action to address food, water, and energy security as well as climate change; advocating joint efforts to address non-traditional security challenges: natural disasters, terrorism, transnational crimes; and forging joint efforts to maintain peace, security and stability and order of East Asian region.
During its ASEAN chairmanship 2011, Indonesia managed to play a role as a peacemaker in the Cambodia-Thailand conflict over the Preah Vihear temple.
Indonesia and other ASEAN member countries collectively have also played a role in encouraging the Myanmar government to open up its political system and introduce other reforms more quickly.
Given the positive democratic developments in Myanmar, the Bali summit approved Myanmar`s proposal to assume the ASEAN chair in 2014.
Another significant achievement made during Indonesia`s chairmanship was progress in the implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), including the recent adoption of the Guidelines for the Implementation of the DOC;
"ASEAN now has become a more mature organization able to create stability and security in the region while also improving its economy and people-to-people relations. With such an asset, I believe ASEAN can contribute positively to the global community," President Yudhyono as the ASEAN Chair 2011 said in his opening speech in the Bali Summit.
The Indonesian president handed over the country?s position as the ASEAN Chair to Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia at the closing ceremony of the 19th ASEAN Summit.
According to Minister Marty, the hard work of ASEAN countries had successfully resulted in the improving security, peace, stability of ASEAN making the Southeast Asia region far from conflicts.
"In the midst of difficult domestic situation faced by several member countries, ASEAN has been able to make progress in a number of areas," said Marty in Bali on November 16, 2011.(*)