Jakarta. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Indonesia has a crucial role as a "bridge-builder" among disparate elements in the international community, and reaffirmed Indonesia's strong commitment in preserving global peace during a press briefing on Thursday (26/10).
"Indonesia embraces its role as a bridge-builder amid differences among actors in the international community," Retno told reporters during a press briefing on Indonesia's foreign policy achievements under President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo’s leadership at the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Thursday (26/10).
Indonesian peacekeepers, according to Retno, is one clear example of the country’s commitment to peace.
Indonesia has deployed more than 2,800 peacekeepers to areas of conflict under the United Nations peacekeeping operations. The minister added that in 2017, Indonesia ranked 8th in the top peacekeeper contributors list.
In response to emerging conflicts and diplomatic crises, Indonesia has stepped up efforts and taken a leading role in addressing them, including the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State, diplomatic strife between Qatar and four Arab countries, and violent clashes between government forces and Islamic State-affiliated insurgents in Marawi City in the southern Philippines.
The Southeast Asian country has also been actively contributing to peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts.
Jokowi and Afghanistan’s President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani agreed during a bilateral meeting in April to strengthen bilateral cooperation in these areas, for example, reinforcing dozens of capacity-building training programs Indonesia already manages in Afghanistan.
"The issues of Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) unity and centrality are important to Indonesia. We cannot deny that Asean is the primary driver of peace, stability and prosperity in the Southeast Asian region," Retno said.
The year 2017 marks the regional bloc’s 50th anniversary. Despite its achievements and notable success in transforming a divided region into a force of unity among its 10 members, Asean is not without its shortcomings.
Recent conflicts such as the rising threat of extremism and terrorism, development gaps and sovereignty disputes are just some of the challenges it needs to confront.
The plight of Rohingya Muslims fleeing from Myanmar’s Rakhine State and consequently the increasing number of refugees streaming out of the conflict region have offered a stiff test for the organization.
Retno highlighted Indonesia’s active leadership in the region, and stressed it has always "quickly responded" whenever an issue arises in Asean, illustrated most recently by its active role in encouraging a dialogue between Bangladesh and Myanmar, as well as providing humanitarian aid to Rohingya refugees.
Indonesia also initiated a three-way cooperation between Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines in response to the siege of Marawi City by Islamic militants in the Southern Philippines.
In September, foreign ministers of Asean and China adopted the framework for a code of conduct on maritime disputes, marking the beginning of actual negotiations to resolve ongoing territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Whether the code will be legally binding or otherwise remains to be seen. According to a Reuters report, Philippine foreign minister Alan Peter Cayetano had expressed preference for the code to only be "binding."
"Asean faces some big challenges. They can only be addressed if Asean is united and able to perform its centrality," Retno said.