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Authors: Aditya Ristanto and Muhammad Rayhan Faqih Syahfa*

The rivalry between the United States and China in the Indo-Pacific region

Last year, the Biden administration announced a trilateral security partnership between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States (AUKUS). The partnership covers many areas, including quantum technology, artificial intelligence (AI), cybertechnology, hypersonic and counter-hypersonic technology, electronic warfare and other innovations. However, an interesting point in the AUKUS trilateral security cooperation is the completion of eight nuclear-powered submarines, which Australia will own before 2040.

Beijing, for its part, has taken a strong stance against the establishment of the US-endorsed partnership, calling the cooperation a provocative act, threatening regional stability and hinting that Australia wants to become a new player that wants have nuclear weapons in the Indo-Pacific region.

It doesn’t stop there. Washington is also a member of the informal strategic dialogue with Australia, India and Japan called The Quad, whose main goal is to create an open, free, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. Recently, the Quad launched IPDMA or Indo-Pacific Maritime Domain Awareness, which provides integrated real-time maritime domain awareness with a satellite tracking system capable of fully monitoring territorial sea waters, especially the China Sea. southern. The system will allow the United States and its partners to monitor illegal fishing activities in the Indo-Pacific region. At the same time, it is claimed that China conducts 95% of illegal fishing in the South China Sea. The system can even detect illegal fishing vessels that intentionally turn off the transponder as a tool to track vessel movement.

Meanwhile, China is also trying to expand its diplomatic, military, economic and political influence in the Indo-Pacific region, especially in countries in the Pacific Islands region. One of them was the signing of a security pact between China and the Solomon Islands on April 19, 2022, which became an alarm, especially for the United States. US State Department spokesman Ned Price responded that “the broad cooperative nature of the security agreement could open the door for PRC (People’s Republic of China) military forces in the islands Solomon”.

Additionally, Washington has explicitly responded to China’s security agreement with the Solomon Islands by establishing the U.S.-Pacific summit in September 2022. Additionally, Washington has pledged to add $810 million in aid. to Pacific island nations over the next decade to address issues such as climate change. , economic growth and natural disasters. However, Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele said the nation of the Solomon Islands would only agree to sign an agreement with the United States after indirect references to China were removed. Jeremiah Manele replied, “There were references that put us in a position where we had to choose sides, and we didn’t want to be put in a position where we had to choose sides”,

The trilateral security cooperation of AUKUS and the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) is an extension of “the Indo-Pacific strategy of the United States”. However, both collaborations state that the objectives of establishing AUKUS and the QUAD’s IPMDA are to maintain security and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. Nonetheless, China’s exclusion from cooperation makes it easy to understand the real motive for the formation of AUKUS and QUAD, which was an effort to balance Beijing’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Indonesia amid escalating Indo-Pacific conflict.

Regarding the free and active foreign policy, Indonesia continues to express its efforts to de-escalate the conflict and increase cooperation in conflict resolution efforts and does not express its full support for the two partnerships. Indonesia fears that the worst-case scenario will occur if all parties involved do not exercise caution in determining their foreign policy.

The existence of AUKUS and IPMDA to counter China’s sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific provokes China as an emerging superpower. Meanwhile, Indonesia faces various short-term and long-term consequences of the tensions that arise due to Indonesia’s position at the heart of the Indo-Pacific region.

Australia, with its nuclear-powered submarines, will become a new player with nuclear weapons in the Indo-Pacific region. This can trigger jealousy that drives other countries in the region to start developing nuclear weapons technology and violate the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

Additionally, the existence of Australian nuclear-powered submarines that will later cross the ASEAN region will violate the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) agreement. Australia’s nuclear submarine and the role of US and Chinese allies in the region will challenge ASEAN member states to respond to the vastly increased power of US and Chinese allies. China in the Indo-Pacific.

In the long term, both forms of cooperation and China’s response could cause a security dilemma in the Indo-Pacific region. If conditions worsen, the Indo-Pacific countries will be forced to side with the two main competing powers; the United States and China. Apart from that, the increased potential for an arms race in the region will force Indonesia and other Indo-Pacific countries to continue to modernize and expand their military capability. If the situation continues to escalate, the Indo-Pacific region will face political tensions like what happened before during the Cold War.

Indonesia’s free and active policy and response to potential threats in the Indo-Pacific

Retno Marsudi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, responded to the existence of AUKUS by reminding us that neither side wants an arms race and power projection that could threaten stability and security in the region. . In addition, she said that every country should adopt a new paradigm in the form of multilateral cooperation in accordance with the conditions of the times and the goals of each nation, which can have a tangible impact on the realization of security and of peace in the world.

Considering that Indonesia is one of the largest countries in ASEAN, the measures taken by the Indonesian government will have a significant impact on creating stability or conflicts that may arise in the region. Meanwhile, more than a year after AUKUS was established, Indonesia’s response to potential threats is nothing more than public narratives expressing the dangers of escalating conflict and calling for values ​​to be maintained. peace and international cooperation.

Exploration more deeply related to Indonesia’s free and active foreign policy. Many misconceptions believe that Indonesia’s free and active foreign policy means that Indonesia should adopt a position of abstention and be neutral towards any conflict that occurs in the world.

Meanwhile, Indonesia’s former First Vice President Mohammad Hatta’s speech in “Padling Between Two Corals” explained that Indonesia’s free and active foreign policy should be understood in context and in accordance with philosophical underpinnings. and constitutionals of the Indonesian state, Pancasila and the 1945 Constitution.

The importance of Indonesia’s steadfastness and alignment with world peace and humanity is the sacred mandate contained in the opening fourth paragraph of the 1945 Constitution, which reads: “participate to the execution of the world order which is under liberty, perpetual peace, and social justice.

Best Efforts Indonesia

The time has come for Indonesia to recognize the importance of security issues in the Indo-Pacific region. Indonesia must try to prevent the worst-case scenario of the cause of political power involving the United States and China in the region from happening. Therefore, Indonesia needs to be more careful in designing its future foreign policy.

Faced with tensions and threats of conflict in the Indo-Pacific region, Indonesian diplomacy must in the future be able to read global geopolitical developments attentively and be more assertive. Indonesia should take a firm stance to reduce the escalation of the conflict and try to prevent the countries in the Indo-Pacific region from being swept up in political unrest that would lead the countries in the Indo-Pacific region to have to choose their camp as consequences of the escalating rivalry between the United States and China in the region.

Moreover, Indonesia does not currently have a specific institution to determine strategic policies related to national security. Indonesia’s national security council should be formed as soon as possible. For the reason that it is crucial for Indonesia to formulate its national security policy with comprehensive decision making and integrated policy formulation.

Moreover, Indonesia’s foreign policy so far still does not affect the de-escalation of conflicts and tensions in the region. Indonesia’s assurance needs to be demonstrated more concretely. If necessary, Indonesia should be a pioneer in building a movement with the Indo-Pacific countries, especially the major ASEAN countries and the Pacific Island countries, which have the spirit and the character of upholding the value of world peace, much like the Non-Aligned Movement that existed during the Cold War as a symbol of concern over potential threats that could jeopardize the security and stability of the Indo-Pacific region .

*Muhammad Rayhan Faqih Syahfa is a Masters student in the Strategic and Security Studies program at Macquarie University, whose research focuses on Strategic Security Studies.

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