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The ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific
22 Oct 2021

As members of the Policy Research Network on Contemporary Southeast Asia (PRN-SEA), RSIS, Indonesia’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS) co-organised two recent webinars related to the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP).

The speaker at the first webinar, held on 21 July 2021, was Ambassador Rizal Sukma, Senior Fellow, CSIS. In his presentation, titled “Understanding the AOIP: An Indonesian Perspective”, Amb Sukma explained that the AOIP is the collective response of ASEAN to the key challenge that regional countries face in navigating the strategic rivalry between China and the US. He added that ASEAN, as a fulcrum of the Indo-Pacific, realises that the competing visions of regional order between the two great powers could be devastating for the region. Therefore, ASEAN needs to register a strong regional view on how the Indo-Pacific order should be managed.

Amb Sukma also raised the question of whether the AOIP can go beyond a norm-setting exercise since norms alone, in his view, cannot solve the problem of strategic rivalry among great powers. He suggested that ASEAN needs to formulate a coherent and realistic thinking that combines the elements of norms, institutions and power. He added that the AOIP needs to be operationalised into a workable strategy in order to achieve its objectives.

The second webinar, held on 22 October 2021, featured Professor Kunihiko Shinoda, Executive Advisor, GRIPS Alliance. His presentation was titled “The Way Forward for the AOIP — Partnership between Japan and ASEAN to Promote an Inclusive AOIP”. The presentation focused on how Japan and ASEAN can work together to materialise cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region in line with the four cooperation areas of the AOIP, namely: (i) maritime cooperation; (ii) connectivity; (iii) UN Sustainable Development Goals; and (iv) economic and other possible areas of cooperation.

Prof Shinoda suggested that in order to accelerate the realisation of the AOIP a task force at the level of senior officials could be established under both the ASEAN Summit and East Asia Summit. He also suggested that a Track 2 forum involving industry, universities and research institutes be set up to make policy recommendations in the four cooperation areas of the AOIP.

The next major event organised by the PRN-SEA will be a virtual conference on 10 November 2021 titled “Indo-Pacific Cooperation towards the Realisation of the AOIP”. The event will be open to the public.

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