Can the ASEAN and South Pacific Become a Priority for Indonesian Diplomacy?
The South Pacific is an area consisting of island states with very small territories, but most exists in a relatively ‘calm’ region and has its own dynamics in interstate relations, such as its relationship with Australia and Timor Leste.
Indonesia is a country that rests between two oceans– the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Indonesia’s condition and geographical position is very prospective in the Asia Pacific region.
In addition, from the political side, Indonesia also has an important role in Asia Pacific. Also, Indonesia’s strategy in playing a role in the development of the South Pacific region is through capacity assistance. The South Pacific region is home to three major cultures, Melanesia, Polynesia, and Micronesia.
The influence of Melanesian culture is seen in the relationship between culture and leadership, constitution, and government, as well as international relations. Melanesia is a cluster of islands that extends from Maluku to the east until the western Pacific, as well as to the north and northeastern Australia.
Indonesia has three regions that have Melanesian roots and they are Papua, Maluku, and East Nusa Tenggara.
With a high spirit of ethnic solidarity from several Melanesian states, an inter-governmental organization (Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) was formed.
This Pacific island region plays an important role for Indonesia in boosting economic cooperation and prosperity int he Pacific region.
RI Representatives continue to undertake efforts to promote economic relations with Pacific countries. However, rationally, the prospect of increasing trade, investment, and tourism links from Indonesia to the Pacific is still constrained by issues of connectivity (no flights and direct voyages), limited market destination absorption due to being small island economies, as well as on-site constraints such as land tenure issues, local security, and high cost of infrastructure development.
Indonesia’s 2 (two) largest traditional trading partners in the Pacific islands are Fiji and Papua New Guinea, with two- way trade volumes reaching USD 26.2million / USD20.9 million and USD 253,58 million / USD97.4 million (2013 ), with a surplus position for RI. Indonesia’s primary products in Fiji include paper, sanitation, plastic, garments, electronics, and assembled engines / vehicles, while Indonesian products of interest in Papua New Guinea include paper, palm oil, sanitation, food, and steel products.
Previously, Indonesia places ASEAN as a priority for foreign policy. However, because of Indonesia’s diverse population, it encourages Indonesia to also cooperate with other regions. Geographically, Indonesia’s territory is not only adjacent and has racial similarities with the culture of ASEAN countries, but also with the countries in the South Pacific region.
Furthermore, Indonesia is committed to participate in the development of the South Pacific region primarily through the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) and the Pacific Island Forum (PIF). It is the reason why Indonesia’s current foreign policy priorities are not only ASEAN but also the MSG.