ASEAN should claim leadership over Indo-Pacific, says Saifuddin

(This is the first of three articles based on the interview with Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah in New Delhi on the sidelines of the recent ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting)

NEW DELHI (June 20): The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should assume a leadership role on Indo-Pacific issues rather than continuing to react to the actions of other nations, said Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah.

He said a number of non-ASEAN countries have taken initiatives that affect the region’s security, safety and prosperity.

“Lately, we have seen a number of initiatives from our partners, directly or indirectly, related to ASEAN,” the minister said. Bernama in an interview on the sidelines of the ASEAN-India Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.

In response to major Western and Asian countries, including India and China, which are stepping up their geopolitical involvement in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions, ASEAN in 2019 proposed the “Perspectives of the ‘ASEAN on the Indo-Pacific’ (AOIP).

He stresses that ASEAN should lead the formation of the region’s economic and security architecture.

Saifuddin is of the view that ASEAN should not take a reactive approach to regional developments.

“We must possess the leadership. ASEAN must claim leadership by talking about the region, rather than reacting to other people talking about the region,” he said.

One arrangement that often grabs the headlines because of its Indo-Pacific focus is the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, better known as the Quad and made up of the United States, Japan, Australia and the United States. India.

Although its beginning is attributed to the humanitarian efforts and disasters of the four countries following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, it took official form in 2007.

Sometimes referred to as “Asian NATO”, the Quad’s Indo-Pacific activities have grown significantly over the past five years, taking into account China’s growing regional influence.

“Now we have others too, we have AUKUS, we have IPEF,” Saifuddin said, adding that China was also looking to develop ties with the Pacific islands.

AUKUS is the security partnership announced by Australia, the UK and the US in September last year, while the US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) has was launched in May this year.

ASEAN’s Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam are among the 13 IPEF members along with all Quad partners.

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