The cooperation between ASEAN and the United States of America (ASEAN-US) must go forward as the rising of the 21st century’s challenges. “We ought to be able to think of concrete and practical ideas in the framework of the partnership,” as noted by Indonesian Eminent Person for the ASEAN-US, Ambassador Robert Inkiriwang during the Focus Group Discussion with the theme ASEAN-US Cooperation Development in Accordance with RI National Interest and Policy at Ministry of Foreign Affairs office (15/5).
According to Ambassador Inkiriwang, the ASEAN-US cooperation, which has been presented in the form of Plan of Action to Implement ASEAN-US Enhanced Partnership (2011-2015), boasts a lot of space for improvement. Nevertheless, he regrets the lack of concrete realization of that abundance of ideas.
Therefore, Ambassador Inkiriwang invited the participants of the discussion to contribute in formulating concrete cooperation recommendation to be presented in 1st ASEAN-US Eminent Persons Group Meeting in Manila, May 20-21, 2012.
“What can the ASEAN offer in developing ASEAN-US cooperation framework in the future?” asked Ambassador Inkiriwang during the opening of the discussion.
“The Eminent Persons have been instructed to evaluate the ASEAN-US cooperation and formulate recommendations for the future of the cooperation,” told the Director of Dialogue Partners and Inter-regional Affairs, Rahmat Pramono just before the official opening of the discussion forum.
He also added that the last recommendation will be conveyed during the 4th ASEAN-US Leaders’ Meeting at the end of 2012. Moreover, Director Rahmat Purnomo hoped that the discussion would run dynamically and produce recommendations to be presented in the upcoming meeting in Manila.
In continuation to Ambassador Robert Inkiriwang’s presentation, Deputy Secretary General ASEAN for Community and Corporate Affairs, Ambassador Bagas Hapsoro expressed Indonesia’s various achievements which, in his opinion, have garnered extra attention from the US. One of them is in resolving the border conflict between Cambodia and Thailand.
In line with ASEAN-US relationship, Ambassador Bagas Hapsoro presented 3 problems in the future direction formulation of the ASEAN-US cooperation. The first problem lies in the perception that the ASEAN-US relationship only focuses on the political and security issues.
Second, Ambassador Hapsoro saw the ineffectivity and inefficiency of the application of the policies as one of the barriers. Thirdly, the lack of people-to-people contact was also outlined as one of the obstacles in optimizing the ASEAN-US partnership.
“The communication among the stakeholders must be improved, not only with track 1 and 2, but also by optimizing track 3. We must exploit every sector possible. In this case, the youths exchange can be one of the promising opportunities,” ended Ambassador Hapsoro.
Philips Vermonte of CSIS who attends the discussion forum as one of the speakers also conveys the same thing. The cooperation in the education sector through professorship programs for Indonesians in the US, in his opinion, can also strengthen the people-to-peoplecommunication. He also cites how, in the 1960s, the Peace Corp Program carried out during the John F. Kennedy administration was able to establish the P to P contact through the involvement of youths.
Aside from that, looking at the ASEAN-US relationship in the 21st century, Philips also notes that, generally, the ASEAN-US relationship has gone through a lot of improvements since Obama becomes the US President. “The US has transformed its orientation from Bilateralism to Multilateralism. Myanmar has also played a significant role in US policies in ASEAN,” told Philips. He also confirmed that idea of Obama as American First Pacific President has become one of the reasons of the improvement in US roles in the region.
Philips then adds that during the upcoming meeting in Manila, the ideas for the disaster preparedness can also be the element in the partnership of ASEAN-US disaster management sector. This is mainly because the cooperation prior to disasters has never been brought up in the framework. Besides that, the cooperation in the maritime security sector can also be outlined into a more technical formula. He noted, “The aid in sea patrol activity and cooperation in preventing illegal fishing are some examples of that,”
Furthermore, Philips explains about US policies that need to be anticipated by ASEAN, especially Indonesia. This is related with the US involvement in several ASEAN’s forums, such as ADMM Plus, Myanmar issues, South China Sea, and democratization of ASEAN.
“One of the problems is the lack of implementation from the agreed mechanism. The reward and punishment mechanism in the implementation of ASEAN agreement is also still unclear,” ended Philips."
During the discussion sessions, several participants come up with several suggestions. Some of them include the suggestion for the Ministry of Social Affairs in enhancing the cooperation in dealing with trafficking in persons, especially children, which casualties have reached approximately 40 thousand children. The Vice Minister of the Youth and Sports Affairs also expresses his expectation so that the cooperation in sports sector can be achieved through the development of the human resources quality and the people-to-people contact.
Corresponding to idea in the cooperation in the sports sector, Ambassador Inkiriwang also notes the initiative of the possible cooperation between ASEAN and US in the ASEAN-AS Youth Game and the promotion of pencaksilat. (Source: Directorate of Dialogue Partners and Inter-regional /Ed. PY)