Thursday, January 17, 2019

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: India-Indonesia: A Natural Partnership For The Ind...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: India-Indonesia: A Natural Partnership For The Ind...: India-Indonesia: A Natural Partnership For The Indo-Pacific – Analysis During his May 2018 visit to India, Indonesia’s Co-ordinating ...

India-Indonesia: A Natural Partnership For The Indo-Pacific

India-Indonesia: A Natural Partnership For The Indo-Pacific – Analysis

During his May 2018 visit to India, Indonesia’s Co-ordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs, Luhut Panjaitan, laid emphasis on a closer cooperation between India and Indonesia, suggesting it to be “important for balance of power in the region.” For India, which is looking to deepen its engagement in Southeast Asia to emerge as a regional power, Indonesia’s forthcoming gesture is a good sign, and a stronger partnership with Jakarta would be in New Delhi’s interest.

Indonesia’s Evolving Foreign Policy

As the world’s largest archipelagic country and Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, Indonesia has demonstrated an intent to play a leading role in the Indo-Pacific framework—a running theme in the policies of its current and previous administrations. Indonesia’s former President, Susilo Yudhoyono, advocated a policy of “thousand friends, zero enemies.” The main strategy of the government, as referred to by its then Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa, was that of achieving “dynamic equilibrium.” The core objective of this strategy is to create and maintain a system that builds trust between all involved parties and mutually agreed norms to ensure that no sole actor dominates the rest. This is the strategy Indonesia is currently employing to balance the US-China rivalry in the region.

For instance, at present, Jakarta’s foreign policy is anchored in Indonesia’s Global Maritime Fulcrum (GMF) doctrine, one that incumbent President Joko Widodo announced in 2014. The doctrine envisions increasing Indonesia’s interconnectedness by decreasing the development gap between the main and outer islands. It also envisions the Indonesian navy as a strong actor in the region’s maritime domain. Indonesia’s attempt, as explained by its incumbent Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi, to “turn geopolitical competition into collaboration,” reflects the continuation of Yudhoyono’s strategy of “dynamic equilibrium.”

Overall, this policy of achieving a balanced and cooperative Indo-pacific region has opened doors for collaboration between various actors in the region. For instance, in New Delhi’s attempts to enhance its position as a regional power, Jakarta has found consonance for its policy of dynamic equilibrium.

India’s Policy for the Indo-Pacific

Since 2014, India has placed a heavy emphasis on its ‘Act East Policy’ to play a proactive role in Southeast Asia. Given the increasing strategic significance of the seas in the backdrop of China’s increasing inroads into Southeast Asia,cooperationon maritime issuesbetween India and the regional Indian Ocean littoral states has witnessed an upswing.

To illustrate, New Delhi has consistently advocated for a cooperative, secure and stable Indo-Pacific to foster collective growth and prosperity in the region. In his keynote address at the 2018 Shangri La dialogue, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi outlined New Delhi’s vision for the Indo-Pacific as “a common rules-based order,” and not as “a club of limited members” or a “grouping that seeks to dominate” or corner any one country. In the same address, Modi explained India’s vision of ‘Security and Growth for all in the Region’ (SAGAR) as a “creed” that India aims to follow to better connect with its “land and maritime partners to the east.” Through SAGAR, which was announced in 2015, India aims to work towards cooperation, sustenance and peaceful development in the region.

India-Indonesia: Evolving Convergence

Evidently, there exists a robust convergence in Indian and Indonesian regional outlooks and strategies as was the case during the Non-alignment Movement era. Modi’s vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and Natalegawa’s conceptualisation of “Dynamic Equilibrium” (which Jokowi has carried forward) are complementary. Both share a common objective of developing cooperative power structuresas opposed to hegemony. This convergence has led to the adoption of the “Shared Vision on Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific” by the two countries. Among other objectives, this “Shared Vision,” envisions “strengthening their maritime cooperation for promotion of peace, stability and bringing in robust economic growth and prosperity to the Indo-Pacific region;” and fostering and upholding a sovereignty and “freedom of navigation and overflight.” The congruity in their respective strategies for the Indo-Pacific seems to have strengthened the case for mutual reliability. This is evidenced in the formulation of an India-Indonesia ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ and the bilateral arrangement pertaining to Indonesia’s Sabang port – both of which were announced alongside the “Shared Vision.”

Looking Ahead

For India, its active outreach in Southeast Asia has allowed it to present itself as a regional power capable of balancing prevailing dominant powers in the region. However, China, with its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), remains a power to be reckoned with. Specifically, Beijing has been Jakarta’s largest trading partner since 2013, and in 2016, became the largest market for the latter’s exports. Today, China is Indonesia’s third largest source of foreign capital.

That said, Indonesia’s stance on the BRI is intriguing. For instance, Panjaitan, also doubles as Indonesia’s envoy for the BRI. Moreover, though Jakarta has pitched its GMF as an alternative to Beijing’s BRI, it has also signed five cooperation contracts worth US$ 23.3 billion under the BRI and is offering new projects worth up to US$ 60 billion to Chinese investors.

Meanwhile, although India and Indonesia have regularly emphasised on their desire to enhance ties in spheres such as economy, the pace of follow-up has been slow. To harness the prevailing momentum in bilateral relations, India must focus on strengthening its economic engagement with Indonesia because its investment in the latter remains minimal. More importantly, the need of the hour is for both countries to optimise implementation strategies and timelines of their numerous congruent plans for a free, rule-based and equitable Indo-Pacific.

By Ashutosh Nagda

Monday, January 14, 2019

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Why The EU Is Not A Major Security Player In South...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: Why The EU Is Not A Major Security Player In South...:   Over the last few years, China’s territorial revisionism in the South China Sea (SCS) has created the outstanding security problem ...

Why The EU Is Not A Major Security Player In Southeast Asia


Over the last few years, China’s territorial revisionism in the South China Sea (SCS) has created the outstanding security problem in Southeast Asia. Unlike its American ally, which seeks to counter China, the European Union (EU) defines its tie with China as one of complementarity, rather than rivalry. In fact, “countering China” — a “buzz phrase” of US defense and foreign policy — is not used by the EU to describe its strategy on Asia or China. And, divided on its stance on the SCS, the EU is not a significant security player in Southeast Asia.

The EU views China as a global player. Brussels is aware that “China may use its economic and financial prowess to pursue its unilateral political and security interests.” But the unparalleled mix of the EU’s wish to have a complementary relationship with China, the priority it gives to trade, as well as the divisions within the Union that interrupt its common foreign policy, explain why it contributes little to Southeast Asian security.

Many Southeast Asian countries have welcomed large Chinese investments in their infrastructure mainly because no other country has offered them as much as China. But they are challenged by neighboring China’s growing military and economic clout and its occupation and militarization of reefs and islands in the SCS. China’s activities in the SCS threaten their sovereignty as well as maritime freedom and security in its international waters.

The Strength of the EU

The EU has the world’s second-largest economy. Three of its member-states are among the world’s top ten defense spenders. Collectively the EU spends €200 billion on defense. Such facts suggest that the EU could help preserve the balance of power in Southeast Asia. But it does not appear to do that, and the question is why.

Several factors explain the EU’s strategy — or the absence of a “hard power” strategy — in the SCS and, more generally, in Southeast Asia. Since the creation of the EU-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2003, the EU and China have become highly interdependent. The EU sees them sharing responsibility for ensuring that their economies remain key drivers for global economic growth and prosperity for all. As important actors in a multipolar world, the EU and China plan to enhance dialogue and coordination at bilateral, regional and global levels, to meet regional and global challenges.

The EU’s Global Strategy (2016) makes clear that strengthening of trade and investment ties and increasing connectivity with China are intertwined. Enhanced connectivity with China is important for “future trade development.” China is singled out as “a key partner with the EU” wishing to deepen trade and investment relations. The EU wants to ensure that Chinese and EU initiatives work together, despite differences in approach and implementation: “Connectivity is not possible if systems and networks are not interoperable.”

What is noticeable is the inconsistency in the EU’s usage of “Asia.” The EU’s Global Strategy of 2016 referred to the “Indo-Pacific” several months before the Trump administration redefined America’s concept of Asia with that label. Then, under the heading “Asia”, the current European External Action Service (EEAS) website refers to China, India, Japan and ASEAN. Meanwhile, in the document on the EU and ASEAN, there is a sub-heading, “Enhance the ASEAN-EU cooperation in the ASEAN-led security architecture.” Under that, the EU reiterates its support for ASEAN centrality “in the evolving regional architecture in East Asia.” (The EEAS places Central Asia under the region labelled “Europe and Central Asia.”)

At another level, Asia is not EU’s biggest strategic priority. At the top of the EU’s strategic agenda are the areas comprising its strategic hinterland. They include Russia, the Mediterranean. North Africa and the Middle East.

Nevertheless, 40 percent of the EU’s trade passes through the SCS, which is therefore of vital importance to EU countries. And much of Europe’s trade goes through the Indian and Pacific Oceans. More than 35 percent of all European exports go to Asia, and four of its top 10 trading partners are China, Japan, South Korea and India.

Since maritime security is vital to safeguard the EU trading interests, it can be asked why the EU, which claims that it is the world’s second largest economy, with GDP worth €15.3 trillion, is not actively engaged in securing the SCS.

One explanation could be that the EU underlines the importance of preventive diplomacy in non-traditional security areas, such as maritime security, conflict prevention, mediation and reconciliation, crisis management, transnational crime, counter-terrorism, cyber security, and non-proliferation. How the EU’s “preventive diplomacy in non-traditional security areas”could help enhance security in the SCS after China has gained control over most of the Sea is a tough question.

A Divided EU

China’s claim to much of the SCS has highlighted the salience of “hard power” in Southeast Asia. A reason why the EU does not offer much hard power to most Asian countries is that it lacks a common defense policy — even for Europe. It was only as recently as December 14, 2018 that 25 EU countries signed a defense pact to fund, develop, and deploy armed forces together.

The wider problem, according to Frederica Mogherini, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, is that the EU needs a strategy based on a shared vision and unity of purpose between the EU’s member-states, and unity in action across the EU’s policies.

Divided the EU stands in Asia. The unprecedented tangle of arms sales, historical strategic interests, the South China Sea and trade reveal why.

First, the EU’s 28 member-states pursue their own bilateral Asia policies. Europe’s engagement with Asia is mostly the sum of the different activities of individual EU countries.

Secondly, six EU countries are among the world’s top ten arms exporters. But they are not the pre-eminent arms suppliers to Asian countries. Germany exports arms to South Korea — its biggest customer, and the UK and the Netherlands to Indonesia. But Indonesia is not the largest vendee of British or Dutch weapons. Nor are China and India the main buyers of French materiel. All told, these arms-exporting EU countries cannot contribute much, singly or collectively, to the maintenance of the balance of power in Asia.

Thirdly, of the EU countries, France and Britain have a historical security interest and presence in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Since 2014, the French navy has regularly patrolled the South China Sea and will continue to step up operations in the area. Advertising Global Britain and its future outside the EU, the United Kingdom is primarily focused on forging new trade relationships. But it also aims to bolster its diplomatic and maritime presence in Southeast Asia. In September 2018, a British warship sailed past the Paracel Islands. The islands are controlled by China, whose claim to them is contested by Vietnam and Taiwan. China sharply riposted that Britain should refrain from being “Washington’s sharksucker.”

In the long run, any Anglo-French naval cooperation in the SCS will be bilateral — if only because other EU countries do not share their strategic interest in the Asia-Pacific.

Fourthly, the EU’s stance on the South China Sea also reflects the divisions between its member-states. The EU wants to uphold the Law of the Sea and encourage the peaceful settlement of maritime disputes. However, the vagueness of the EU’s stance on the SCS was obvious in July 2016, when a tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled against China in its dispute with the Philippines over a part of the Sea. The EU responded that it was “committed to maintaining a legal order of the seas and oceans.” This bland statement pleased China. “Almost the whole of Europe takes a neutral position”, commented an editorial in the state-steered Global Times.

However, three EU member-states — Hungary, Greece, and Croatia — were not neutral and highlighted a divided EU foreign policy. Hungary, Greece and Croatia, who have welcomed Chinese investment, opposed condemnation of China. A day after the EU statement, Hungary published its own statement echoing China’s position that countries should settle disputes “through direct negotiations.”

Fifthly, the EU’s security priorities in Asia are domestic security, civil strife and economic development. But the main security problem for Southeast Asian countries is their international relations with China. More generally, the EU’s priority is trade. What impression its anodyne statements about regional security make on Southeast Asian countries — all economically and militarily weaker than China — merit debate.

Even when it comes to its top priority of trade, the EU is not the principal partner of Southeast Asian countries. At the regional level, the EU’s trade with ASEAN is less than China’s. In 2017 two-way ASEAN-EU trade reached USD 257.4 billion. China’s trade with ASEAN in 2017 totalled USD 514.8 billion. China’s strong trading ties with ASEAN also sharpen its edge over the EU.

On the bilateral plane, four ASEAN countries suffice to confirm that the EU is far from being their main trading partner. Sixty-five percent of the imports of Singapore, a free trade partner of the EU, come from Asia, and only 18 percent from Europe. Seventy-five percent of Singapore’s exports go to Asian countries, 10 percent to Europe.

Similar trends are visible in the EU’s trade ties with other Southeast Asian countries. For instance, Cambodia, with which the EU has been embroiled in a fracas about human rights, gets 93 percent of its imports from Asia, 4.7 percent from Europe. Fifty-seven percent of Cambodia’s exports are sent to the Americas and Asia, 41 percent to Europe.

Asia is the destination of 84 percent of the exports of Myanmar — another ASEAN country condemned by the EU for its human rights record. Eleven percent are sent to Europe. Eighty-eight percent of its imports come from Asia, 5.7 percent from Europe.

Located at the confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, Indonesia sees itself as a Global Maritime Fulcrum. Asian countries receive 70 percent of its exports, Europe 12 percent. Seventy-two percent of Indonesia’s imports come from Asia, 10 percent from Europe.

China’s economic and military influence is growing in Asia — and beyond. A prosperous but disunited EU has yet to agree on foreign policy and to frame a common defense strategy. And, giving priority to complementarity and trade with China, the EU will not play a prominent security role in Southeast Asia in the foreseeable future.

This article was published at IPP Review.


Anita Inder Singh

Anita Inder Singh, a Swedish citizen, is Visiting Professor at the Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution in New Delhi. Her books include Democracy, Ethnic Diversity and Security in Post-Communist Europe (Praeger, USA, 2001) ; her Oxford doctoral thesis, The Origins of the Partition of India, 1936-1947 (Oxford University Press [OUP], several editions since 1987, published in a special omnibus comprising the four classic works on the Partition by OUP (2002, paperback: 2004) The Limits of British Influence: South Asia and the Anglo-American Relationship 1947-56 (Macmillan, London, and St Martin’s Press, New York, 1993), and The United States, South Asia and the Global Anti-Terrorist Coalition (2006). Her articles have been published in The World Today, (many on nationalism, security and democracy were published in this magazine) International Affairs, (both Chatham House, London) the Times Literary Supplement, the Guardian, the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Asian Wall Street Journal,   the Nikkei Asian Review and The Diplomat.


Saturday, January 12, 2019

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: New British Military Base In Southeast Asia Could ...

Kerry B. Collison Asia News: New British Military Base In Southeast Asia Could ...:   UK Defense Minister Gavin Williamson haS been widely quoted as declaring that the U.K. will establish a permanent naval base in Sou...

New British Military Base In Southeast Asia Could Have Unintended Consequences


UK Defense Minister Gavin Williamson haS been widely quoted as declaring that the U.K. will establish a permanent naval base in Southeast Asia – perhaps in Singapore or Brunei.  This would be the first new British military base in the region since the withdrawal of most of its military forces more than half a century ago. Such a move would have unintended consequences for the region—and for Britain itself—many of them negative.

The idea has been stimulated in part by Brexit – the imminent across the board withdrawal of the U.K. from the European Union. The possible effects of Brexit on Britain’s future are an increasingly divisive issue for U.K. citizens.  Many despair. Some members of Prime Minister Theresa May’s government want to use the separation to launch Britain on a path to a successful and independent future.   It is clear that at least initially, the U.K. will be weakened.  They reckon that to “survive and thrive” after the traumatic separation, the nation must boost its economic relations with Asia. To ensure the latter it must be able to protect the sea lanes and its investments there.  Because it cannot do this alone, it must enhance its military relations with the U.S.  The U.S. needs help in its quest to constrain China’s behavior in the South China Sea. So the move could be a quid pro quo. Perhaps as a harbinger of this calculus, then British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the Royal Navy would be sending HMS Queen Elizabeth and its under-construction sister ship HMS Prince of Wales, into the South China Sea in 2020. 

That is an explanation of the initiative from the British perspective.

 But China would likely see it in a negative light.    Indeed it would likely be perceived as a declaration by one of its former colonial masters to become part of the current US strategic cabal to confront, constrain and contain it. The U.S. has officially made clear that it considers China a potential enemy and China must presume that it is constructing and planning for worst case scenarios — including war– and actively integrating its allies into its strategy.  Indeed, China also sees the new US Indo-Pacific Strategy and the revival of the Quad—a potential loose security coordination mechanism between India, Japan, Australia and the U.S.—as further evidence of this Western response to its rise.   The dialectic is simple and stark. America wants to remain the leading strategic power in Asia and China wants to replace it.

China would also likely see the move as compounding a strategic existential threat.  China has built a new submarine base at Yulin on Hainan in the South China Sea for its nuclear powered, nuclear armed submarines. These are its deterrent to a first nuclear strike against it. To be effective, they need to hide in the South China Sea. The presence of a major British naval and air base and concomitant British patrols and intelligence probes –in addition to those of the U.S.—could inhibit their ability to hide, thus diminishing its deterrent and exposing China to defeat in a nuclear exchange. Already, much to China’s angst and chagrin, a British warship has challenged China’s claimed baselines around the Paracel Islands.

To China it must seem that just as it is regaining its dignity from a ‘century of humiliation’, it is now faced with a possible 21st century high tech repeat of history. Indeed, these developments may be seen by China as evidence of a grand coalition of Western civilization plotting against it –an Armaggedon–like clash of civilizations as predicted by Huntington. If so, it will oppose this gambit with all it can muster. This is the strategic context that Britain needs to consider in proceeding with building a new military base in Southeast Asia.

An initial concern for Britain should be ‘is it worth it’ economically and politically? The answer is that in its lonely and difficult transitional period, probably not. But if the U.S. considers a British base as part of its grand strategy vis a vis China then perhaps it will support its construction both economically and politically. After all, as an ally the U.S. would presumably have access to the base for its own assets as well.

Perhaps  a more important consideration for Britain is how would such a move be viewed politically in its former colonial sphere of influence?   Singapore already hosts a British naval repair facility and Brunei hosts a battalion of British soldiers—some 500-800 strong. Moreover Britain is a member of the Five Powers Defense Arrangements that includes Commonwealth members Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand and which undertakes military exercises in the region. But a new base would be different in kind, scale and geopolitical significance.

Moreover, it is not only China that would likely view such a development as a resurgence of neocolonialism—both ideationally and strategically. It would likely be opposed by nationalists in both the host and the region. At the least it would raise strong suspicions among neighbors as to the host’s long term intentions towards both themselves and China.  More specifically, the base and the host would immediately become a target for China in a conflict and the host would have difficult political and economic relations with China for the foreseeable future.

Singapore might calculate that it is worth it to host a British base because having it is a form of insurance against bullying by Malaysia and Indonesia as well as a hedge in case the U.S. – which has ‘rotational’ military privileges there– pulls back from the region. But Singapore would then have to live with the long-term consequences as China’s power and influence grow in the region- – and beyond.  As for Brunei, it is difficult to imagine a strict Islamic society welcoming a large contingent of foreign military troops. To do so could eventually undermine the very legitimacy of the Sultan and his government.

The added stress on ASEAN could be fatal.  It is already riven by pro-China and pro-U.S. factions and increasing pressure to choose between the two powers. A new base in the region for a US ally could be the strategic straw that breaks the back of ASEAN unity. It would also accelerate the arms race in the region as China expands outward and the U.S.—aided by its allies—including Britain –  rushes to upgrade their friends and allies’ military capabilities.

In sum a new British base in Southeast Asia could have significant negative unintended consequences for all concerned except perhaps for the U.S.

A version of this piece first appeared in the South China Morning Post.

Mark J. Valencia

Mark J. Valencia, is an internationally known maritime policy analyst, political commentator and consultant focused on Asia. He is the author or editor of some 15 books and more than 100 peer-reviewed journal articles and Adjunct Senior Scholar, National Institute for South China Sea Studies, Haikou, China


Friday, January 11, 2019