The Future of IORA: Jakarta to Take the Lead

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1 December July 2015 The Future of IORA: Jakarta to Take the Lead Dr Auriol Weigold FDI Senior Visiting Fellow Key Points Jakarta takes a positive stance on IORA and views its foreign policy over the next five years as intersecting with IORA s interests. In its term as Chair, Indonesia will embrace the Indian Ocean in concert with its familiar tilt towards the Pacific, establishing an effective twoocean approach. Linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans sets in place Indonesia s desired maritime axis and its ambitions as a maritime power. Indonesia will not be opposed to expanding the membership of IORA and may consider the ways in which Pakistan can be brought in to the grouping. Indonesian initiatives, including current IORA priority areas such as economic diplomacy and the blue economy, provide opportunities for Australia and other members to continue and expand their engagement in support of the incoming Chair. Summary A number of pathways traced in this paper suggest that, while promoting the visibility of IORA regionally is an important aim, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi views redressing her country s lack of awareness of it as an even higher priority. While domestic policy is Jakarta s paramount concern, its overall foreign policy direction and IORA s interests show an apparent nexus between the President s maritime axis and Indian Ocean maritime interests across a spectrum from security to the blue economy. Addressing the regional architecture, increasing IORA membership, the establishment of a research facility

2 and advancing economic diplomacy as a state endeavour are pathways for Indonesia s term as Chair that will allow space for Australia s continued involvement and expertise in new and continuing ventures. Analysis Indonesia sees itself in a positive light in terms of its transition to the chairmanship of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) when it takes over from Australia at the next Council of Ministers Meeting, to be held in Padang, in October IORA Background The Association was formed in 1995, when the Government of Mauritius convened a meeting with seven rim states, including Australia and India, to discuss co-operation among Indian Ocean states. IORA, originally the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC) grew from perceived opportunities following the demise of three obstacles to littoral states co-operation: the Cold War, India s closed economy and South Africa s emergence as a democratic state. It was formally launched on 6-7 March 1997 with a cohort of fourteen member states that then included Indonesia. IOR-ARC activities included on-going projects and programmes under the umbrella of three separate working groups: Trade and Investment, a Business Forum and an Academic Group. Each had business and academic representatives to ensure diversity of opinion, and met ahead of the peak body, the Council of Ministers, at Foreign Minister level. Interest in IOR-ARC at the government level faded following the East Asian economic crisis. Its early intention of promoting economic and human resource development in a resourcerich area bore, by 2000, little resemblance to what had been anticipated. 1 The organisation was reinvigorated in 2011 when India became the Chair, and was renamed IORA when Australia took over the leadership in IORA has 20 ocean rim members and six dialogue partners, extending its reach into the Pacific and beyond. Its six core priority areas: maritime safety and security; disaster risk management, trade and investment facilitation; academic, science and technology co-operation; tourism and cultural exchanges; and fisheries management, will be taken over by Indonesia, and may remain little changed but their scope enhanced. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, who will chair IORA, sees her country s foreign policy over the next five years as connecting with IORA s interests and being in step with Indonesia s maritime axis, extending to embrace the Indian Ocean in concert with its customary tilt towards the Pacific. 2 While President Joko Widodo s ( Jokowi s ) level of interest in foreign policy is unclear, boosting maritime connectivity and improving and strengthening relations with littoral states is vital on a number of fronts. 1 McPherson, K., There Once was an Ugly Duckling, or, The Sad History of the Good Ship IOR-ARC, in D. Rumley & S. Chaturvedi (Eds), Geopolitical Orientations, Regionalism and Security in the Indian Ocean. New Delhi: South Asian Publishers, Saragih, B.B.T., RI Upbeat Ahead of IORA Chair, Jakarta Post, 25 February <http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2015/02/25/ri-upbeat-ahead-iora-chair.html>. Page 2 of 6

3 Indonesian Policy Prospects and IORA s Future Development Jokowi s first priority is domestic: maintaining Indonesia s sovereignty and securing the borders of the Indonesian archipelago. In linking both the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the archipelago occupies a key geostrategic position and brings together aspects of the president s domestic and foreign policies: increased inter-island connectivity, the upgrading of ports and improved maritime security. In a notable further step, Jokowi s maritime axis, eloquently discussed during his visits to the APEC, ASEAN and G20 meetings late in 2014, established a global aspect: setting Indonesia in its context as a maritime power. Australia and India are substantial regional maritime powers and their ongoing involvement in IORA can support Indonesia in its emergence as both a more significant international actor and as the incoming IORA Chair in a region where defence budgets are often vast and naval build-ups predominate. Indonesia s need for foreign investment to fund much-needed infrastructure and sources of growth point to economic diplomacy and Jokowi may set up a dedicated task force to aid that. In IORA terms, Marsudi has an inbuilt advantage in being able to take forward Indonesia s Economic Diplomacy Fund, which was established and funded under the current chair, Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop. The Economic Diplomacy Fund will support IORA goals in the IORA Economic Declaration that was released in Perth on 9 October Together with the Blue Economy (IORA s 2012 commitment to fostering marine economic activity), Marsudi has the opportunity to increase IORA s visibility, particularly at home, as she recognises that few Indonesians are aware of the organisation. With local recognition an objective, the Foreign Minister might usefully consider setting up an Indian Ocean Institute, at least in name, before Indonesia assumes the IORA leadership. A starting point for research might be based around the Indonesian-led workshop on tsunami mitigation, International Training on Disaster Risk Management for IORA Member Countries, Southern American and Caribbean Countries, held in Aceh in May This plays well into IORA s Blue Economy initiatives and provides Australia, which is well-versed in disaster management, with an opportunity to promote its expertise and experience. With a focus on strategic positioning and, during Australia s term as Chair, a stronger emphasis on maritime security, increasing IORA s international visibility could reasonably include seeking to elevate the decision-making group to leadership level. Increasing visibility should also include expediting membership, beginning with Burma and the Maldives. Pakistan is not a member of IORA, either, and is conspicuous by its absence all the more so given that it is a member of both the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC) and the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS). Negotiating a path that draws Pakistan in, either as an IORA dialogue partner, or as an observer in some yet-to-be-created status, would be a veritable coup for Indonesia in its time as Chair. Indian Ocean Regional Architecture Yet to be debated is the proposal of former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa for an Indo-Pacific Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation, first flagged in Similar in Page 3 of 6

4 concept to the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Co-operation, the question of whether such a treaty was intended to be binding remains unclear. Equally unclear are the prospects of securing agreement on the terms of any such Indian Ocean Treaty among the vastly diverse IORA states, stretching from the African coast to South-East Asia, which would all be parties to it. The Treaty, as originally proposed, does not appear to have resurfaced under the Jokowi Government and may not be on its foreign policy horizon at all. Indeed, the domestic challenges that the government faces and the often uneasy state of its international relations regionally may combine to leave it sidelined, despite Indonesia s chairmanship of IORA and the opportunity that presents. While IORA has held pan-regional objectives since its foundation, without sufficient political will and ongoing oversight of its agenda, it is unlikely to retain the interest of other Indian Ocean groups that address localised issues. One example is SAARC, caught up in the India- Pakistan rivalry, and highlighting the challenge of under-developed regional architecture. To address this challenge, the Bhubaneswar Declaration identified a number of areas in need of attention. Released at a conference on the Indian Ocean held in India by the Research and Information System for Developing Countries in March 2015, it proposed, among other measures, closer trade and economic co-operation. Primarily under the auspices of IORA, such co-operation should include re-examining non-tariff barriers, revisiting policies related to Foreign Direct Investment and technology transfers, the development of a Doing Business Index and the establishment of an IORA Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Although essentially an Indian agenda, it addressed the economic dynamism of the Indian Ocean rim countries and merits further research by the incoming Indonesian Chair and her team. The Indian Ocean A Maritime Region on the Rise?, a June 2015 German-organised conference on the Indian Ocean region, took up the issue of the future institutional architecture for the region. A high emphasis was placed on IORA and how it might be strengthened, including tighter links with IONS and the UN Ad-hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean Zone of Peace, to add to its maritime security dimension. Research to determine whether maritime security should be localised or region-wide and how such concerns as governance, boundaries, inter-state disputes, illicit trade and piracy might best be addressed, would all be appropriate work for a future Indonesian Indian Ocean Institute. Climate change and its effects on the region might also be reasonably added to that list. Conclusion The IORA Calendar of Events from July 2015 until Indonesia takes over as Chair in October includes a range of events for each month, demonstrating the breadth of activities. In late July, a meeting in Bali will examine the Development of Seabed Minerals and Hydrocarbons: Current Capability and Emerging Science Needs. At the end of August, an IORA Women s Economic Empowerment Event will be held in Mauritius a favoured project of Julie Bishop and one that is much admired by Retno Marsudi. On 2-4 September, the First IORA Ministerial Conference on the Blue Economy will take place in Mauritius. Page 4 of 6

5 Encouraged by Australia, there is much scope for Indonesia there, while, on 6-7 September, the second Indian Ocean Dialogue will be held in Perth. Drawing Australia s term as Chair to a close, the Business Forum, the Academic Group, the Working Group on Trade and Investment and the Committee of Senior Officials will meet before Indonesia s Marsudi assumes the IORA Chair at the Council of Ministers Meeting on 23 October in Padang, Indonesia. IORA s six priority areas and the ongoing activities of the working groups taken over from India by Australia in 2013, together with Australia s development of economic diplomacy, the blue economy and furthering women s empowerment, will pass on much for Indonesia to work with. Through the course of this paper, areas needing emphasis have been charted: the building of regional architecture, extending maritime security into new fields and cooperative endeavours, expanding the membership with inherent benefits to IORA, and raising its profile, particularly in Indonesia itself. Stable regional relations are a pre-requisite, of course, and such a future pathway, supported by Australia and India, suggests a vibrant IORA during Indonesia s term of leadership. ***** About the Author: Dr Auriol Weigold is an Adjunct Associate Professor in International Studies at the University of Canberra. She has been a Fellow and Honorary Fellow at the Australian Prime Ministers Centre at old Parliament House, Canberra, between 2010 and 2015, publishing on Australian and Indian prime ministerial relationships. Previously, she was Convenor of the BA International Studies and an Editor of the South Asia Masala weblog, hosted by the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University. In 2008, she published her first book: Churchill, Roosevelt and India: Propaganda during World War II. Since then, she has co-edited and contributed to two further books. Her research interests include the Australia-India bilateral relationship, India s energy and security needs, and Indo-British Relations in the 1940s. ***** Page 5 of 6

6 Any opinions or views expressed in this paper are those of the individual author, unless stated to be those of Future Directions International. Published by Future Directions International Pty Ltd. 80 Birdwood Parade, Dalkeith WA 6009, Australia. Tel: Fax: Web: Page 6 of 6

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