Indonesia moved forward with its Indo-Pacific concept during last week's East Asia Summit in Singapore, emphasizing cooperation on sustainable fishing and combating marine plastic debris to promote trust among participating countries. (Photo courtesy of Singapore Ministry of Communications and Information)

Indonesia Suggests Cooperation on Simpler Issues to Boost Trust Among Indo-Pacific Nations

NOVEMBER 19, 2018

Jakarta. Indonesia moved forward with its Indo-Pacific concept during last week's East Asia Summit in Singapore, emphasizing maritime cooperation on "low-hanging fruit" to promote trust among participating countries.

"We must keep the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean peaceful and secure. It shouldn't be turned into a dispute over natural resources, territory or maritime supremacy," President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo said on Thursday, as quoted in a statement by the Cabinet Secretariat.

Indonesia, which has been vocal about its desire to develop an Indo-Pacific geopolitical framework as part of its foreign policy priorities this year, considers the East Asia Summit as the ideal platform to discuss the matter.

To develop this concept, the country places great importance on a mechanism led by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), due to its geographical scope and the regional bloc's investment in connectivity.

Leaders of the 18 countries participating in the East Asia Summit pose for a photo ahead of their meeting in Singapore on Thursday last week. (Photo courtesy of Asean)

The leaders of the 10 Asean member states, plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States, participated in this year's East Asia Summit.

In a video made available by her ministry, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi highlighted several key points of Jokowi's presentation, including the importance of maritime cooperation.

"The president suggested the need to start exploring cooperation on simpler issues, or low-hanging fruit, to strengthen our confidence-building measures," Retno said, citing sustainable fishing and combating marine plastic debris as examples.

The president also emphasized that the Indo-Pacific concept must abide by the principles of cooperation, inclusiveness, transparency and respect for international law.

"The development of this Indo-Pacific cooperation will not require the establishment of a new institution," Jokowi said.

While the initiative would first focus on stronger, more solid cooperation between countries participating in the East Asia Summit, it will eventually also include countries outside the forum, Jokowi said.

He said consultation and negotiation during the summit should focus on strengthening cooperation on maritime issues, connectivity and sustainable development.

"We hope we can cooperate on low-hanging fruit issues first so we can create and preserve trust that will serve as an asset for our next discussions," Retno said.

During last week's meetings, US Vice President Mike Pence also laid out his government's "Free and Open Indo-Pacific" strategy, highlighting prosperity, sovereignty, peace and security, a senior administration official told reporters during a phone briefing.

"Asean is central, at the core, of this Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy. In all our meetings, the vice president spoke very candidly about the importance of Asean," the official said.