Foreign policy in a maritime world
January-March 2016
By: Hasjim Djalal

How Indonesia and the other Asean countries manage their future relations with the emerging power that is China as well as other powers in the region – the United States, Japan, Australia and India – will be a major foreign policy concern in the years ahead, given the deficit of trust and ongoing territorial disputes.

Toward the West

Indonesia will also have to pay more attention to the Indian Ocean and the countries around it in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Although none of the countries in the Indian Ocean region pose any problem or danger to Indonesia, the prospect for developing an Indian Ocean policy of cooperation within the context of preventive diplomacy should not be underrated. Indonesia has a very long coastline on the Indian Ocean. It also has a very large exclusive economic zone and continental shelf in the ocean. Many of its islands, including the two largest, Sumatra and Java, which are home to the majority of Indonesia’s population, border the Indian Ocean.

The ocean offers enormous potential resources for Indonesia’s economic development, particularly fisheries and mineral resources. Indonesia has taken an active interest in the development of cooperative efforts in the Indian Ocean involving nations in Africa, the Persian Gulf and South Asia, and Australia, be they governmental or otherwise. They include the Indian Ocean Marine Affairs Cooperation, based in Colombo; the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, based in Mauritius; the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, headquartered in the Seychelles; and the Informal Forum on the Indian Ocean Region, based in Perth, Australia. It is essential that Indonesia participate actively in these efforts in the Indian Ocean, particularly with the rise of India as an economic and strategic power, and the continued importance of the Middle East and Africa in global politics, as well as the problems of human and drug trafficking.

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