The Platform


Indonesia assumes the ASEAN chairmanship in 2023. The country is going to have to thread the needle in dealing with the crisis in Myanmar and a whole host of other issues.

Indonesia, the largest country in Southeast Asia, has a robust vision compared to other ASEAN members. Leading ASEAN provides a more institutional channel to strengthen its leadership in Southeast Asia and contribute to regional stability.

As chair, Indonesia has the power to set ASEAN priorities throughout the year and represent ASEAN in the international community.

Indonesia understands that for any vision to succeed it will depend on the stability of the region. To make ASEAN an epicenter of growth and stability, Indonesia will have to accelerate the connectivity of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Indonesia will also make ASEAN more inclusive and avoid becoming a proxy to any one country.

Indonesia hopes to strengthen ASEAN’s relations with both China and the United States. China sees working with ASEAN will help its Belt and Road Initiative and its grand vision for the region. The U.S.-led Quad has reaffirmed its support for ASEAN unity.

Indonesia supports inclusivity in the region. One of the most recent examples is the newly introduced Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF). Indonesia stated that its IPEF should be “inclusive and open to all countries” and the prosperity of the Indo-Pacific should not be “enjoyed by certain countries.” Indonesia has stressed that IPEF should “encourage synergy” with other regional frameworks.

Indonesia wants to make ASEAN an epicenter for economic growth but also a cornerstone of Indo-Pacific inclusivity. ASEANs favorable relations with both Beijing and Washington put ASEAN in a strategic position to liaison with both competing powers.

Internally, President Joko Widodo has forecasted that Indonesia’s chairmanship would face immense challenges, one of them being the crisis in Myanmar. By default, it threatens ASEAN unity and stability. The ongoing Myanmar crisis also jeopardizes democratic and human rights values that are often championed. Indonesia needs to lead ASEAN to resolve the crisis and restore democracy and human rights in Myanmar.

ASEAN also faces a crucial test with the war in Ukraine. ASEAN members have been struggling to find a unified voice on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. ASEAN has called for a ceasefire, but unfortunately, this does not necessarily mean that ASEAN will take further action.

It has been argued that even though the war in Ukraine has global ramifications, it does not directly impact ASEAN. ASEAN is already occupied by other regional concerns. For that reason, ASEAN has less responsibility towards and capability to influence the outcome of the war.

However, as Russia is already a member of the ASEAN-led security dialogue, ASEAN could invite Ukraine as a new participant.

Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that Ukraine would be invited given the geopolitical headaches that this would cause. However, at least ASEAN can give renewed hope and confidence to the international community for peaceful closure in Ukraine.

Rafyoga Jehan Pratama Irsadanar is Monbukagkusho (MEXT) Scholar and Ph.D Student at Kobe University Graduate School of International Cooperation Studies, Japan.