Jakarta. Indonesia’s maritime diplomacy must address geopolitical challenges while also optimizing benefits from the country’s strategic location between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, a foreign affairs ministry official said on Wednesday (13/12).
Rizal Sukma, Indonesia's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Ireland and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), said the country's maritime diplomacy "must reflect its identity as an archipelagic state with maritime power."
Taking into account Indonesia’s strategic location amid "intense interactions" in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, Rizal said all maritime diplomatic efforts from now on must be designed to optimize benefits for Indonesia.
"Both oceans will be a center of global maritime rivalry in the 21st century, and that may involve not just the United States and China, but also India," Rizal told reporters on the sidelines of the 60th Anniversary of the Djuanda Declaration symposium in Jakarta.
This means Indonesia must also look into ways it could minimize the negative impact of such a state of affairs, including the possibility of increased pollution in Indonesian seas.
Indonesia’s maritime diplomacy should therefore focus on the principles of "securing, utilizing and sustaining," Rizal said, especially when it comes to preserving its marine resources.
In its effort to combat illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing, the Southeast Asian country must improve communication with neighboring countries when they decide to down or burn illegal fishing vessels.
While the sinking of the ships is intended as a deterrent, it has also sparked criticisms from neighboring countries like Vietnam and the Philippines.
"We must let them know, and explain to them why. When we sink their ships, it is us signaling that they should do their homework to stop their fishermen from trawling illegally in our seas," Rizal said.
Maritime diplomacy also goes beyond setting maritime boundaries, he added.
To realize President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo’s vision to turn Indonesia into a global maritime fulcrum, the government must also initiate efforts to reduce pollution and enhance efforts at maritime preservation.
"This goes way beyond protecting our maritime sovereignty," Rizal said.