ASEAN View of Indo-Pacific Cooperation
Hudson’s ASEAN talk last Friday offered insight on the Southeast Asian organization’s operations, as well as its potential for cooperation with allies. Richard Heydarian discussed ASEAN’s capacity to unite many diverse and populous countries, and its attempts to push back against Chinese threats without isolating China altogether. However, ASEAN’s ability to act swiftly and decisively in a multilateral fashion has been hindered by its consensus-based structure, which gives veto power to each member country. Thus, Heydarian suggested that ASEAN nations muster up to courage to act unilaterally or “mini-laterally” (as a bloc of just a few ASEAN countries) to confront China. Heydarian also mentioned that the global community’s shift toward discussing the “Indo-Pacific” has concerned a number of Southeast Asian policymakers, as they fear that trust in their ability to respond to China has dissipated, and the West is turning to India to hedge against Chinese dominance.
Dr. Aparna Pande, Hudson’s Director of the Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia, offered insights into the Indian government’s approach to ASEAN and Southeast Asia. She explained that although India was mostly focused on its immediate neighbors during the four decades after independence, it is now focused on cooperating with Southeast Asia, especially in attempts to respond to China. Hudson’s Dr. Saturo Nagao’s presented on the importance of Quad security cooperation in the eyes of Shinzo Abe, and how he hopes improved multilateral cooperation will be a sufficient response to Chinese aggression. The discussion also included valuable insights from the audience, including members of the Indian, Japanese, Singaporean, and Finnish embassies.