Quiet Diplomacy Raises Expectations on Asean Chair Indonesia


Jakarta. Indonesia’s non-megaphone diplomacy in dealing with the Myanmar political turmoil actually raises expectations of its ASEAN chairmanship, according to foreign policy think-tank the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Indonesia today is favoring a non-megaphone diplomacy approach in hopes of better engaging all sides of the Myanmar conflict. However, the recent ASEAN Summit —in which President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo admitted that no meaningful progress had taken place on the peace talks— might cast doubt on Indonesia’s ability to meet the expectations that its quiet diplomacy had set.

“There are downsides to this quiet diplomacy, namely the expectations became really high. When nothing comes out of the summit, it leads to great disappointment,” CSIS senior fellow Rizal Sukma told a foreign policy forum in Jakarta on Monday.

“So some of us are still willing to give the benefit of the doubt and wait until [the 43rd ASEAN Summit] in September. But this is also dangerous. When September comes, you [Indonesia] would say ‘let’s ask Laos’ [as the next ASEAN chair] to continue the work. And all those expectations that Indonesia would be able to push Myanmar to implement the five-point consensus would be gone forever,” Rizal said.

The clock is ticking on Indonesia’s ASEAN chairmanship. Rizal urged the Indonesian government to really get the Myanmar junta into adopting the five-point consensus, although the former diplomat admitted that he was also running out of ideas. 

“The [Myanmar crisis] is the hardest problem that ASEAN has ever faced. And I think Indonesia should not really depend on ASEAN all the time. There should be an Indonesian approach. ASEAN is ASEAN. Indonesia is Indonesia,” Rizal said.

Early this month, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi claimed that ASEAN chair Indonesia had held over 60 engagements with the stakeholders in Myanmar, including the military junta, the government-in-exile, and ethnic armed organizations. 

Myanmar was high on the agenda at last week’s 42nd ASEAN Summit in Labuan Bajo. According to the chairman’s statement on the summit, the members agreed that the five-point consensus would remain the group’s main reference to address Myanmar’s escalating political crisis. ASEAN has kept the military junta out of its top-level meetings after the latter defied the peace plan which called for the immediate cessation of violence. 

Source: Jakarta Globe