Indonesian minister of foreign relations, Marty Natalegawa, discusses Indonesia's relationship with the United States, China, and ASEAN, as well as efforts to overcome terrorism and international maritime conflicts.
LEE CULLUM: Let's get started. First I want to thank you, Richard, and Nancy (sp), and Megan (sp), and the meetings committee, who have put together -- meetings department, I should say -- who have put together a riveting week this September. Every U.N. week in September is marvelous, and this one, I think, is going to be especially important.
And to begin the week, I'm happy to say -- and this is on the record -- we have the 17th foreign minister of Indonesia, the 17th since independence almost 60 years ago. Dr. Marty Natalegawa took office in October, and he already knew the job exceedingly well because he had been chief of staff for his predecessor, Hassan Wirajuda.
He also was spokesman for the department, for the ministry, and did a marvelous job, apparently. He had to deal with the media during the Bali bombings, which was very difficult, and other circumstances also which were trying, I don't doubt. But he performed with such high competence that the PR society of Indonesia awarded him its first public relations society award.
Now, Minister, we have a number of agencies of government at every level in this country that could use some PR advice. (Laughter.) So if you have any time after the U.N., you might travel around and dispense some of your wisdom.
Of course, he knows the U.N. very well, also, because he was -- he was permanent representative of his nation there when Indonesia chaired the Security Council, so he chaired the Security Council. He's always in interesting places at interesting times.
Next year, you chair the East Asia summit, so -- he always turns out to be the chairman. Now, I think there's a reason for that. I note that he is the youngest son of his family. He's the son of a director of a state bank.
And correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that would be a very privileged position in a family: adored by all; provided with a lot of latitude; you didn't have to be a banker; you could do something really interesting, like international relations, and get a Ph.D., like Dr. Haass. And I think that's wonderful, because I think that the broader perspective is certainly needed in the work you're doing now.
I want to ask you about a couple of weeks you've had -- or two weeks ago, I should say. Problems on the high seas seem to be epidemic in Asia.
We note in The New York Times today that China is very upset because Japan has arrested a captain of a trawler. And two weeks ago, Malaysia arrested three of your officers. There was a great hue and cry. You released seven fishermen who had been arrested for poaching, they released the officers. But still you had politicians in your country saying you were too soft on Malaysia and this was very bad. How did you respond to all that?
FOREIGN MINISTER MARTY NATALEGAWA: Well, thank you, Ms. Cullum, for that question, and thank you, Mr. Haass, for arranging this wonderful occasion. Let me address that issue. Yes, we've had very difficult -- somewhat difficult period of time about couple of weeks ago in managing our relations with one of our neighbors, namely Malaysia.
And Malaysia, as you are probably aware, is a maritime country. It's an archipelago country made up of some 17,000 islands; most of them -- quite a few of them are not even named yet. So it's -- we are that huge and that diverse. And we share boundaries with some 10 countries, including with Malaysia, and as a result, we have a number of unresolved delineations. Some of our maritime boundaries have yet to be fully delineated. And as a result of this, there is often some incident of the type that we went through a couple of weeks ago.
The incident is related to a -- (fishery's/fisheries' ?) issues. Malaysia said the fishermen carried out their activities within their waters; we say it's in our waters. But in any case, it created all kind(s) of diplomatic difficulties. But what is most important to underscore is that both governments resolved to address this issue through negotiations and through dialogue. And that's why since then I've had a meeting in Malaysia on the 6th of September; I'm having another one -- meeting here in New York with Malaysian foreign minister, two more -- between three more, between now and December, essentially intensification of our negotiations on boundary issues.
Of course, Indonesia is now a very open, robust democracy with all shades of opinion to be heard. And hence some members of our legislature have different views, perhaps. But I think in the final analysis all of us are resolved and in agreement that the issue of this type needs to be solved through negotiations.
And in this connection, what I have been trying to convey to our colleagues as well is that, within ASEAN, Indonesia doesn't do -- what do you call it -- conflicts. We are a country that has often been seen to be above the fray. In other words, Indonesia has been a country that other ASEAN countries turn to whenever they have some bilateral problems or challenges. So when we have this particular situation with Malaysia, we have always been resolved to address through negotiations rather than -- rather than any other means, because we have an interest to ensure that we maintain Indonesia's role as, like, above, you know, bickering and above disputes of this type.
CULLUM: Well, you've done very well for many years being above the fray. There was an op-ed piece in The New York Times in August by Stanley Weiss, who runs something called Business Executives for Security (sic/for National Security) in Washington. And the headline was "Rowing Between Two Reefs." I think you have a phrase for this in Indonesia, do you not? What is it, "mendayung antara dua" --
CULLUM: -- "karang," yes.
CULLUM: You correct me when I got it wrong.
NATALEGAWA: One of the -- one -- (inaudible) --
CULLUM: Anyway, you have rowed between two reefs for many years, first between the United States and the Soviet Union, and you kept your virtue --
NATALEGAWA: Yes, ma'am. (Laughter.)
CULLUM: -- now between the -- (chuckles) --
NATALEGAWA: Just about.
CULLUM: Not easy; now between China and the United States. You met with your counterpart from China at the U.N. this morning.
NATALEGAWA: That's right, yes.
CULLUM: How would you assess those reefs at home and in your relationship to each one of them?
NATALEGAWA: Yes. Well, actually, I missed that op-ed, but I'll make sure that --
CULLUM: It was all about Indonesia.
It was --
NATALEGAWA: Was it really?
NATALEGAWA: Well, yes, we have been describing our foreign policy as being to row between two reefs. And it's otherwise known as independent and active foreign policy. It's classically presented during the Cold War period, between East and West, not to choose between the two sides, which is otherwise also known as the Non- Aligned Movement, in a more generic sense.
But of course with the end of the Cold War, with the demise of the Eastern Bloc, et cetera, some people question what is the continued relevance of such an outlook.
But now we define it in a different way. Independent and active foreign policy essentially means a capacity to make up our own mind in terms of issues -- in other words, room for us to be able to maneuver, being able to reach positions and to have positions independent of any other powers and interests. In other words, we'd safeguard that capacity to make independent choice.
But actually nowadays we think the world today is no longer a world of two reefs but it's of multiple reefs. We have so many; it's a very multi-polar world, with different kind of challenges, no longer East and West, no longer -- about security, political issues; about the environment; about food security, energy security.
So it's a very messy world, and our orientation now is to ensure that for every one of these issues, we are part of the solution. In other words, we are about building bridges. We are not interested in accentuating differences.
Indonesia is naturally a consensus builder because that's the makeup of our own country. We are, as we know, a very diverse country made up of hundreds of different ethnic groups, hundreds of languages spoken. So consensus building comes naturally to Indonesia, I think, and I think this is one quality that Indonesia is now trying to propagate, trying to project in international affairs. Whether it be on climate change, whether it be on disarmament issues, development issues, we always try to be part of the solution to many of our contemporary issues.
CULLUM: When China called for the East Asia Summit, which is meeting in October, and the U.S. will join (then ?), it had in mind just a handful of members -- itself, of course, the ASEAN nations, the 10 ASEAN nations, plus Korea, plus Japan. And you were among the leaders in insisting that there be other members -- the U.S., India, Australia, New Zealand. And your thought, as I understand it, was to be sure there's some weight on the other end of the see-saw to China, on the opposite end.
Now, do you feel that's been accomplished?
NATALEGAWA: Yes, it's been accomplished in the sense that we have been having a rather lengthy debate on what is called regional architecture building. And Indonesia has really weighed in on this debate and tried to take a leadership position.
Our interest is what we call a dynamic equilibrium for our region, not quite in a classic balance-of-power situation where not one country is preponderant in our region, but in a more holistic and a more hopefully positive sense, in the sense that we don't wish to see our region dominated by one country, whoever that country is, but we wish to see inclusivity, more countries, the merrier -- the more, the merrier; and for countries to be engaged in multisectoral issues, not only security but also political and also environment, economic, social-cultural, et cetera.
Now, in that (debate ?), we have been very interested in ensuring the participation of the United States and even the Russian Federation in the ongoing evolving regional architecture. And I think our view eventually was accepted by the rest of ASEAN and was even accepted by China. I just met the Chinese foreign minister earlier today and where -- they basically endorse(d) our proposal, our view to have both the Russian Federation and the United States part of the regional equation in the Asia-Pacific area.
So all in all, it's about building -- achieving equilibrium, a state of affairs where there is not one preponderant country. But we will be very careful and very reluctant to see the return of, like, a Cold War mentality for our region, because we don't wish to see a self-fulfilling type of situation where the rights of one country is seen to need to be managed or to be contained, even, by other group of countries. So that's why we are very keen to manage this equilibrium. Putting our foot in one camp ensures that we have constant equilibrium, hopefully.
CULLUM: Not so long ago, China declared that it had a national interest -- a vital national interest in the South China Sea. Secretary Clinton traveled to the ASEAN forum, the regional forum, in July, and said, well, she had some thoughts about that, and they were that the U.S. would happy to support a collaborative diplomacy to settle the Spratley Islands and other disputed islands in the area.
Everybody was happy. Twelve of the 27 nations there applauded. China did not. But how did you feel about it?
NATALEGAWA: Well, Indonesia is not a claimant state in the South China Sea, so we have no vested interest in terms of jurisdiction or claims to the islands on the South China Sea. In fact, because of that status, over the past 20 years Indonesia has actually facilitated discussions and dialogue between the claimant states on how to ensure that notwithstanding the jurisdictional issues, that countries in the region can collaborate on development issues and resource management issues.
So from our perspective, we are very keen, as I said before, to avoid situation where the South China Sea becomes a new area for conflict and tensions in our region. It's a lot to do with self- fulfilling type of situation. We have been mentioning to the United States to be aware that there is a lot of sensitivities involved.
Of course, the -- we choose to make the issue a bit more generic. We speak of maritime issues, rather than specifically South China Sea issues; because under the maritime chapeau, we can speak of, obviously, freedom of navigation, safety of navigation, the issue of environmental challenges as well. So we make it a bit more diverse, a bit more comprehensive.
Well, certainly, this is one of our challenge (sic) just now. Vietnam is chairing ASEAN at the moment. As you are probably aware, Vietnam is also a claimant state to the South China Sea equation. Indonesia isn't, so next year, in 2011, we hope under our chairmanship of ASEAN this is one area we can make progress, because we have no vested interest, as I said, on particular outcome of the South China Sea.
CULLUM: China now has a free-trade area with ASEAN, China- ASEAN Free Trade Area. The United States has tried to put together a free-trade agreement with ASEAN, but it's hung up on Burma, because the U.S. has sanctions against Burma. How do you feel about Burma, as a member of ASEAN? Is it a good thing? Is it a hindrance?
NATALEGAWA: Well, we could feel better about how Myanmar is --
CULLUM: We could, too.
NATALEGAWA: We could feel better, because we have been extremely -- now, to put it a bit more frank and candid way, we have been unhappy with how things have been developing in Myanmar. Because while the issue is clearly internal, is clearly national; but at the same time, it has clear regional ramifications. And we have said on many occasions -- and I will say it one more time here -- Indonesian government, we have been crystal clear in demanding for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi -- not tomorrow, not today, it should have been many years ago. She does not deserve her detention, and that has been our position.
But that's one thing, a position of principle of the type, but we also wish to see a solution brought about.
Condemnation is not policy, and we need to go beyond condemnation. And in this connection, we and neighboring countries of Myanmar in ASEAN, we've been trying to have some kind of a road map. How do we resolve this issue in a -- in a -- in a -- in a good way?
And where we are now is basically trying to ensure that Myanmar (authorities ?) live up to its commitment to conduct the free and fair elections that they had said they will conduct. We have readied ourselves to observe such an election if and when it does take place in November. We haven't heard from them, to be honest, since, whether they are ready to accept our observers to their elections.
But despite its likely faults, we do feel that the elections does offer a promise of change. At least the system may be somewhat -- open up. There could be some possibilities that the election bring forward. So we're looking to that.
Of course, Myanmar situation cannot simply be seen as being a national situation. We have the geopolitics of the region as well. Myanmar is surrounded by quite -- you know, I mean, countries of substance, which I won't have to mention who these -- which these countries are. So we have an interest to ensure democratization in Myanmar and, at the same time, to ensure that Myanmar remains within the ASEAN group of families rather than otherwise.
CULLUM: Well, now, you mention the ASEAN group of families. You have a number of families, it seems to me. You have ASEAN, you have the East Asian Summit now --
NATALEGAWA: That's right.
CULLUM: -- you have APEC, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation.
There's been talk of an East Asian community, though Japan seems to be backing off because of its problems with China. But how do you see all these organizations, all these families of families, sorting themselves out?
NATALEGAWA: Well, I'm glad you asked that question, because recently there's been some debate in Indonesia asking and questioning why it is that Indonesia is investing too much or concentrating too much, apparently, on ASEAN.
They say that as Indonesia can basically go beyond ASEAN.
But actually, in our perspective at the moment, they are all mutually reinforcing. Indonesia of course have other forums and other organizations within which we are active, most notably and most recently, the G-20 groups of countries, the G-20 nations.
CULLUM: But am I right? Are you the only East Asian nation in the G-20?
NATALEGAWA: From ASEAN, certainly --
NATALEGAWA: -- and so of course we have the -- we have Japan --
CULLUM: Of course. Yeah.
NATALEGAWA: -- also Korea. But from Southeast Asia it's only -- so we have China, South Korea and Japan and Indonesia, that I can think of, from the East Asia part of the world.
Contrast 10 years ago. Ten years ago, when we were in the midst of our financial crisis, Indonesia had the IMF come in to rescue our economy. But 10 years of democratization have brought about clear democratic dividend. We are now not only in a better state politically but also economically. We are now a member of this G-20 group of nations. In other words, now we are finding ourself having our foothold and our imprint and in so many other forums -- the G-20; Non-Aligned, of course; the Islamic Conference; the U.N. But our trick is how to ensure that these things can be done in a mutually reinforcing way.
And certainly a foothold in ASEAN is a prerequisite for a role elsewhere. You cannot do the work without also your doing your own region. And here -- and you mentioned chairmanship before as well in your kind introduction -- in our view, Indonesia's role in ASEAN -- when we chair ASEAN, for example -- it's about exercising leadership. If there's a difference between chairmanship and leadership, leadership is taking a more influential, a more prominent adding-value role.
But given Indonesia's status, it size, obvious size, population- wise, geographic-wise, we cannot exercise leadership by -- in forcing ourselves. It has to be an earned leadership. In Indonesia's case, less can be more. In many instances, we have to defer to ASEAN to create the necessary space for ASEAN to develop and to become more -- stronger.
So that's why our diplomacy has to be a bit more thought through, not -- and well calibrated, and not to make it too obvious that we are trying to be imposing our thoughts and our will on our neighbors. Less can be more in our -- in our case. And I think in that way, we have been able to earn our leadership role within ASEAN.
CULLUM: You see, that's what I mean about good PR advice. Less can be more, you're absolutely right.
Let's talk a bit about terrorism. I know it's -- you've worked very hard on it. You've made a lot of progress, from what I'm told. Karen Brooks here at the council, who was -- who was really very good on your part of the world, made that clear to me. And still, there are problems. You had the Bali bombing, you had the Marriott bombing in 2008.
Abu Bakar Bashir was arrested and tried and imprisoned and released. Now you rearrested him. You're going to try him again. He's the guiding inspiration of terrorism, apparently, in Indonesia -- Al Islamiyah and other groups. What are you trying to accomplish with this rearrest of him?
NATALEGAWA: Well, the effort to combat the global (coming ?) of terrorism is not a war. If it was simply a war, then it's simply about the application of force, brute force and all that to overcome the challenge. But we see it in a more comprehensive way.
When we had our Bali bombing in 2002, of course, soon after the 9/11 act in New York, we were all awoken to the reality of the challenge of terrorism.
But from the very start we were keen to ensure that our fight to overcome terrorism was done in a way that is a democratic response as well. As a country, we have just escaped from decades of authoritarian rule. There was always a healthy cynicism and suspicion of too much authoritary -- authority to the government -- in other words, this distinction between civil liberties and security angle.
But I think we have just gotten it right in the balance, in terms of civil rights and terrorism efforts. And we have been fighting terrorism. Those who have been involved in acts of terrorism have been brought to trial, have been -- have been -- have been serving their -- serving their sentence, but -- including the one person that you had mentioned just now.
But the trick for us now is how to preempt, how to prevent. Because to preempt and to prevent, you must have some anticipatory measures as well. And here the issue of civil liberties become(s) especially prominent. How do you strike that balance? Do you outlaw certain groups because that group is espousing clearly undesirable goals? But then where does it put you in terms of civil liberties?
So that's a bit tricky debate. At the same time, we are also empowering the moderates. Indonesia is proud to be the -- to be the fact that we have the largest Muslim population in the entire world, bigger than the entire Middle East, probably, combined. But at the same we espouse moderate Islam, recognize all the major faiths in a -- in a good way, a template for the fact that democracy, Islam and modernity can all go hand in hand.
But terrorism is (sincere ?) work in progress in terms of our countering it. We are not complacent. We will always be on -- you know, very, very careful in ensuring that we ensure maximum security and safety.
CULLUM: Although you say they're serving their sentences, Abubakar Ba'asyir was serving a sentence when he was released.
NATALEGAWA: That's right.
CULLUM: So why are you going through the trial again?
NATALEGAWA: Well, it's a totally different case now that we -- he's serving for, I think -- he's being charged for. This relates to the most recent (incidents ?) of a terrorist cell that was identified in the province of Aceh, in the northern tip of Sumatra. And so he's now being charged and being brought to trial on account of that particular episode. The previous sentence was -- that he was serving was vis-a-vis the Bali bombing.
But I think it demonstrates well how, in so far as Indonesia is concerned, we are not leaving any stone unturned in trying to overcome the threats of terrorism. We have actually translated -- transformed ourselves. We used to be seen as being part of the problem on terrorism, but now we have become the regional hub for counterterrorism efforts.
We have in Indonesia what we call the Jakarta Center for Law Enforcement Cooperation. It's called Jakarta, but it's located in another town called Semarang, in central Java. But don't ask me why that is the case. It's in -- it's called Jakarta, but it's in Semarang. But it has become a hub. We have U.S. participation of civilian government, the British government, as well, in developing capacity not only for Indonesia but capacity for the region on counterterrorism.
CULLUM: Back for a moment to the incident with Malaysia over the fishermen and the officers, your president, Yudhoyono, SBY, as he is called --
NATALEGAWA: That's correct.
CULLUM: -- we used to have initialed presidents, LBJ and JFK; I liked that -- he made a statement. Some said it was too weak, as you and I discussed. But your military chief, General Sonosa (sp), said, oh, no. He was very clear. He was admonishing the army to stay out of it, the military to stay out of it.
So was this on your mind, then, that the military might on its own decide to get involved in this and other situations?
NATALEGAWA: Not really. Not really. I think we have always been on the same page in terms of addressing this issue through diplomatic means, through diplomacy and through negotiations. And as I said before, all of us are extremely mindful of the implications both in terms of real costs, in cost of lives, cost of resources, of any conflict that was to ensue, open conflict, but also in terms of the diplomatic standing of Indonesia in the region and indeed beyond. So that's why we resolved to solve the issue through diplomatic means.
By the way, when you made reference to our TNI, our armed forces, if there is ever one institution that has gone through as much transformation during our past 10 years of democratic change, it has been within our military. I mean, you can imagine back 10, 12 years ago the military, the armed forces, was very much part and parcel of the life of our country, in terms of not only security but also in political area. But now they have basically moved back to the barracks, become professional units. And that's why we need to engage with countries like United States, to reinforce this trend, to make sure that it doesn't become -- it becomes irreversible, that we no longer have backtracking in our democratic (path/past ?).
CULLUM: You were in Copenhagen almost a year ago, in December. You're planning to go to Cancun.
NATALEGAWA: It was very cold in Copenhagen.
CULLUM: Very cold, but you're gong to warm up in Cancun this coming December.
CULLUM: What do you expect in Cancun?
NATALEGAWA: Well, I mentioned the weather in Copenhagen because we had -- the previous conference on climate change was in Bali in December, so you can imagine the contrast between Bali in December and Copenhagen in December.
But yes, we were -- we have been somewhat disappointed by the outcome of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference. We had all looked forward to so called sealing the deal, to seal the deal, as the secretary-general described it. But obviously, it didn't happen.
But we had the Copenhagen Accord out of that particular conference, and Indonesia was very much a part -- our president was actually very much part of that small group of countries that came up with the accord.
Indonesia is keen to ensure that, first, of course we wish to see the multilateral negotiation succeed, the so-called UNFCCC process, which is still ongoing and still very difficult. I'm not sure whether Cancun will do the trick in terms of achieving the necessary binding agreement.
But we have done since Bali of 2007 is that we've asked ourself what we can do on our own, rather than simply waiting for the global architecture to be ready. And in this connection, I think our precedent at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh last year -- we announced our commitment to reduce our emission by 26 percent from business as usual, on our own efforts, and by 41 percent with international support.
So that's really -- we hope to have a demonstrative effect by saying here is a developing country that choose to do things on its own, rather than -- not waiting for the bigger picture, by addressing the deforestation issue, by addressing the issue of renewable energy, promoting renewable energy.
So that's what we have hoped to be a game-changing position, and it has had the necessary impact, because India, Brazil, China even came up with their own national targets.
So we have been trying to be part of the solution in climate change by setting emission reduction targets, by raising the profile of forest issue as a way to deal with climate change, by bringing the issue of marine -- maritime issues as well vis-a-vis climate change, and by making the so-called MRV -- monitoring, reporting and verification -- of emission measures to be an acceptable modality for countries to commit themselves, because prior to Indonesia's announcement, many developing countries felt it was an interference to be looking at the MRV.
CULLUM: MRV, what is -- ?
NATALEGAWA: Ah. Monitoring, reporting and verification.
NATALEGAWA: So all those commitments that we make to reduce our emissions must be monitorable, must be verifiable, and there must be reports. Because it's easy to make commitments without clear benchmarks. And until recently, developing countries have said that they have been very reticent to go this route, because they say this is interference.
But Indonesia changed the mindset. We said this is fine, we are good to go, we have national commitments. We are open and ready to be monitored and to be verified, because we are confident that we can -- we can live up to our commitments.
CULLUM: Well, Minister, I know that our members are open and ready to speak to you, have questions and perhaps comments.
Yes. Right -- thank you. Oh, there are two of them back there. We'll just go from one to the other.
QUESTIONER: Herbert Levin. Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, for clear explanations of Indonesia's foreign policy. To go back to the South China Sea, where Indonesia is not a claimant and therefore has a very clean and good role -- and one should pay tribute to the meetings the Indonesians have sponsored in track two diplomacy on this, et cetera. Given this knowledge in Indonesia of this question, I wonder if you could look into the future, not an Indonesian plan to impose on everybody -- that's not the way Indonesia does business -- but if you look at treaties like the Antarctic Treaty or the high-seas fishing treaties, is it possible for there to be a solution in the South China Sea which does not involve examining Dutch, British, French, American old claims for every mud -- bit of mud out there but involves something which would permit exploitation of oil and gas without ruling on territorial claims?
Can you see this in the Indonesian crystal ball?
NATALEGAWA: Well, if I may just address that, that exactly has been our perspective over the past 20 years. You made reference to the track-two process that Indonesia has initiated, the so-called workshop series on the South China Sea. It's been based, premised on the assumption that notwithstanding the overlapping jurisdiction between the different countries, we must try to encourage and make possible cooperation on resource management, on environmental issues. And this track has actually been quietly, in a very diligent way, making headways. Actually we are commemorating 20 years of this track this coming November.
But, you know, all this good work becomes secondary when you have very high-profile incidents or high-profile exchanges between countries that are more to do with security issues. I've had a very good conversation with some of my colleagues who have claims to the South China Sea, precisely now trying to identify whether it's doable for them to set aside, without prejudice to their sovereignty claims, to begin the process of having some kind of cooperation.
We must begin to -- we must develop comfort level between the countries concerned, and probably begin with some very innocent, you know, non-political kind of endeavors to do with, for example, search- and-rescue cooperation, to do with resource management, although resources nowadays is obviously quite complicated because, obviously, one of the reason that countries are very much interested in the South China Sea is because of the potential riches it's supposed to hold.
And therefore -- but the mindset is there, the approach is that way.
Next year, we will be chairing ASEAN in 2011. We will be keen to ensure that that chairmanship delivers something concrete -- a code of conduct, perhaps, for countries in the region, to conduct themselves to ensure that there is not inadvertent conflict over the area. But beyond that, we must try to have management of the conflict -- not quite resolution, management of the conflict, through precisely working on functional areas.
And here, I think the Track Two process will become very key, and the high politics of it must not suffocate the possibilities for collaboration in other areas.
CULLUM: I think there was -- I think you -- yes, please.
QUESTIONER: Hi. Jeff Laurenti, Minister Natalegawa.
As the world's most populous Muslim country, as you reminded us, Indonesia is often mentioned by "the great mentioner" as a country that could somehow contribute to the resolution or the strengthening of peace and security in Afghanistan, either as a potential contributor of administrative support and building up the government infrastructure so it's not simply a Western projection but one of shared Muslim convictions, or as a possible facilitator of explorations and possibly negotiations between the Afghan sides or -- and, should that prove successful, as a possible contributor of peacekeepers to guarantee a settlement, if one is reached.
Have you all received feelers from the Afghan government, the U.S. government, the United Nations, somebody, to explore any or all of those roles? Would such a more active face by Indonesia in Afghanistan be politically controversial at home? And what advice from the safe distance of Jakarta do you have for the parts of the international coalition that are on the ground there as to how best to try to resolve it?
NATALEGAWA: Well, yes, we have had a number of communications of the type that you mentioned, precisely based on the kind of rationale that you have highlighted, identifying Indonesia's potential modest role on the situation in Afghanistan. Especially we have been very much zeroing in on two aspects. One is capacity building for Afghanistan, especially in that more benign area of -- such as in agriculture possibilities, irrigation, and other -- even policing, training of the Afghans' police, et cetera, and then cooperation in the health sector as well.
Actually, all these years we have had quite a few Afghan nationals come to Indonesia to be trained in our training centers, to develop capacities precisely in that kind of area.
On top of that, we have been thinking out loud about the possibility of facilitating dialogue among the different factions in Afghanistan, to ensure that we have some kind of a resolution to the situation they're in.
Now Afghanistan obviously is a country that is not short of international attention. If anything, I think it's been quite a oversupply, perhaps, of international attention and good will.
So what we have been trying to do is to be a bit more well- defined and a bit more (listening ?) in our outlook.
We have been approaching Afghanistan just to tell us what are your needs, rather than supply driving the demand. So we've been asking them what they need and they've been telling us what they need, and we've been meeting those needs in a very modest and low-key way.
We have a bit of a procedural issue insofar as involvement on the ground in Afghanistan, because politically we've never served overseas other than under the (United ?) Nations umbrella. So as long as we have the ISAF in Afghanistan as the umbrella within which international forces are operating, it will be a non-event for us because we will not be able to participate. But we have enough space to participate through bilateral means, trilateral, even. We have been working closely with Japan, working closely with them to develop certain capacities in Afghanistan.
Actually, the point, the quality that you mentioned about Indonesia and its Muslim population does open up several possibilities for us. I must mention and underscore, however, that while Indonesia obviously has the world's largest Muslim population and we are a member of the Organization of Islamic countries Conference, we are not an Islamic state. We do not apply the Islamic law, the Shari'a law.
We treat all the religions and all the faiths as being equal, and enjoy a number of benefits as a result of it, one of which, I wanted to add, is that we celebrate and enjoy all the holidays of the different faiths. (Laughter.) So probably, if you were to identify the number of holidays that we enjoy, probably Indonesia has the most because we celebrate all the major holidays of the different faiths. (Laughter.) But we are very proud of that fact: on the one hand, largest Muslim population, but on the other hand, we are a country that tries to be a bit more inclusive and not in any other way.
QUESTIONER: Laurie Garrett. I run the --
CULLUM: Laurie Garrett! Hi. I didn't know that --
QUESTIONER: Hi, Lee.
QUESTIONER: I run the Global Health program here at the Council. And Mr. Minister, if I may for a moment, I just want to compliment Lee Cullum, who always does such a brilliant job in her questioning. And we owe a debt to you.
CULLUM: Thank you, Laurie. Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Thank you.
QUESTIONER: Mr. Minister, before the elections, you had a minister of Health, Dr. Supari, who asserted on behalf of your country the notion of viral sovereignty. The idea was that the H5N1 bird flu virus belonged to Indonesia, not to any other country, not to any other place in the world, and that Indonesia was justified to abrogate certain aspects of the international health regulations in order to protect its sovereignty over the H5N1 bird flu samples.
At this point, Indonesia's had more bird flu deaths than any other country in the world, and you've had cases in pigs as well as birds. So there's a great deal of concern on the part of the international community to see those viruses and determine whether there are specific mutations going on and whether something imperils the world as a whole for a pandemic.
What is the current administration's position on the notion of viral sovereignty, on the sharing of H5N1 samples and the relationship between surveillance for disease and the sort of Doha round's intellectual-property issues with vaccines?
NATALEGAWA: Well, yes, this has been a somewhat difficult issue for many, including for Indonesia. You used the term sovereignty just now to describe our concern and position.
Basically, it's about -- I guess you can put it in different ways, but essentially, the main concern that Indonesia -- a country like Indonesia has had is how to ensure access to vaccine. Results of research, et cetera, that may be conducted, like in a country like Indonesia, because of its own -- its own reasons, becomes -- contributes greatly to the finding and discovery of new vaccines. And yet, once those vaccines have been -- have been discovered, have then become available, we have not an access to it in a good way. So there is a principle of accessibility to vaccine that I think our former minister fought for.
And I think that message has been made loud and clear. And at the same time, of course, we are mindful of our own international obligations to ensure that our science does not in any way impair or impact on the -- on the -- on the health of -- concerns of other countries as well. So we need to achieve a balance. And I think what our present administration is doing is precisely striking that balance: how to ensure, on the one hand, we live up to our international obligations; but on the other hand, along the line of the message that we have said, of course, before, how we must make the issue of access to vaccines by developing countries a bit more prominent in international discourse, in terms of making sure that countries like Indonesia have -- as population within it, have access to vaccines.
And actually, we, Indonesia, together with Norway, have made foreign policy and global health one of the major -- what do you call it -- priority in our foreign policy. We are having a meeting, I think on the 23rd of -- this coming 23rd, on this issue, how we can reach a balance between the concerns of a developing country like Indonesia, and at the same time that generic concern about -- this question of intellectual property and the other issues that we have mentioned.
But I think, all in all, the point that I want to say is that the Indonesian government, the president, Indonesian administration is keen to ensure a win-win, mutually reinforcing, mutually satisfactory way of solution to this issue.
QUESTIONER: Hello. My name's Timothy Reuter. I'm with Tiger Trade (ph). I was interested in your thoughts on expanding trade between the U.S. and Indonesia. I know Indonesia recently revised upwards its statistics on what the expected expansion of exports is to the entire world. Where do you see this going in the future, both in terms of amount and flows and sort of the politics of free-trade agreements? Thank you very much.
NATALEGAWA: Well, I have just returned from Washington on -- I was in Washington on Friday to have a meeting with Secretary Clinton wherein we launched what we call the joint ministerial commission. It is -- it will -- there will be annual meetings between the secretary of State and the new foreign minister of Indonesia on a regular basis every year, and -- and we will be overseeing some six working groups, on environment, on defense/security issues, on education, on trade and investment and science and technology, among others.
I think what we have found is that, while Indonesia-U.S. relations is a -- is a happy one, is a -- is a very positive one, and we are now using the term "comprehensive partnership" to describe Indonesia-U.S. relationship, at the same time, we do identify lacunae and gaps where we can do even better, especially in the investment area and as well -- in the trade area as well.
And here, I think, through this Joint Ministerial Commission that we have just established, which will facilitate hopefully greater visits among businesspeople from the United States to Indonesia and likewise, we can really raise the profile of the United States in Indonesia, akin to, for example, China, which has been making a great deal of headways in our region through various kind of free trade agreement that it has been able to come up with between our countries.
But all in all, the best is yet to come, in the sense of trade and investment relations with the United States. I hope through forums such as this we can, you know, alert all concerned about the possibilities in Indonesia.
As you know, we have this notion of BRIC -- Brazil, India and China and Russia. We have not been categorized under the same chapeau or template. We don't really mind, to be honest, because we would like to overachieve, I think, but now -- nowadays, I think, increasingly there is more and more recognition of the possibilities that Indonesia is offering as an added host to U.S. investment and U.S. trade. And I'm very optimistic about where Indonesia is heading on -- in this economic area.
CULLUM: You have every reason to be. I mean, you've come through this economic calamity far better than most. How did you manage that?
NATALEGAWA: Well, with a great deal of prudence. I'm afraid we learned the hard way because of the 1998, 1999 financial crisis that -- begun elsewhere, not in our country. It was begun in Thailand, even in Korea, but then we felt the most -- the most extreme form of the crisis in '98, '99.
Hence from then on we've become a bit more prudent, a bit more -- even more transparent, a promotion of good governance in our banking practices.
And as a result, we were able to withstand the recent financial crisis better than most. I think we registered 6-something percent even during 2008, in 2009 we went down to around 4 percent, and this year, hopefully, we'll have around 6.5 percent.
Our domestic economy is sufficiently large, we think, to be able to absorb, then, the downturn in the global financial situation, but the contagious effect of such a situation was obviously very much a situation of concern. But this time around we were, of course, in the G-20 group of nations as well, to ensure that all the remedies that have been suggested to deal with the financial concern, crisis, does not result in prolonged depression or recession in some of our economies. But we work hard. We try to do our best.
CULLUM: But also you have 260 million people who are consumers. You're consuming your own produce, is that right?
NATALEGAWA: That is what I was saying, to refer to the size of our domestic economy, the largest economy in Southeast Asia, a population of some 230, 250 million people, fast-rising income bracket, a young population as well. I think we are yet to feel the full benefit of the demographics in our country. Because we have a young population, the productivity no doubt will be even more enhanced.
And beyond our own country -- because, as you are aware, ASEAN is integrating the ASEAN economic community by 2015. There will be a market of some 500 million people. So I think when -- of course, you have your China, you have your India in our neighborhood. But I think Southeast Asia, Indonesia in particular, has also a positive story to tell.
Any -- yes.
QUESTIONER: Mr. Minister, Paul Speltz.
Thank you very much for your comments. And also, Lee, you asked all the good questions already.
CULLUM: Thank you.
QUESTIONER: What I'd like to do is just ask a macro question, having served and worked in your country for years. And as you look now at where things stand, what you have achieved, which has been remarkable, in the last eight -- next -- last eight years, what do you see as the four biggest challenges for Indonesia over the next five to 10 years? And how might you be dealing with them?
NATALEGAWA: Well, thank you for acknowledging the transformation that Indonesia has been going through over the past 10 years, the so-called Reformasi period, wherein some 250 million people who had previously languished under authoritarian rule almost overnight find themselves transformed into the third-largest democracy in the world.
We are still obviously a work in progress in terms of our democratic transition, gone through quite a few shortcomings that we are trying to overcome. But I think the trajectory is well and good. And as I said -- as I've been trying to describe just now, the 10-year period has seen a democratic dividend in many areas: obviously in the economic area, in the transformation from IMF-supported country to a member of the G-20; politically, the resolution of many conflict situations in my own country, Aceh. The -- the situation in the province of Aceh was resolved through dialogue, negotiations; it's unthinkable 30 years ago -- over the past 30 years. So we have had political dividend, economic dividend as part of this bigger democratic dividend.
But ahead, the next 10 years or so, we are not taking things for granted, for certain, because there will be still tremendous challenges for us. One thing that we need to be ensuring is that our democracy becomes further stabilized and further solidified, capacity of our democratic institutions, so that we don't revert back to where we were before.
But to ensure the strengthening of our democratic institutions, the consolidation of democracy, we must make sure that democracy delivers. It's no good people simply going to elections and taking part in elections. We must ensure that our development continues to take place and that Indonesia earns its place as a -- as a middle- income country, as a country that is fast consolidating its role in the world, as well -- so consolidation of democracy, the (centering ?) of our development efforts to raise the standard of living of our -- of our people, population.
The national unity, of course, is a constant focus on -- by us. But on this issue, I think I'm less worried than I would have been 10 years ago, 12 years ago. Because if you would remember in 1998, 2000, political obituaries have been written about Indonesia. Many have said that we would go the route of Yugoslavia or even the Soviet Union in terms of coming apart, but actually we have become stronger by central -- by decentralization rather than by a greater centralization.
So development, democracy, ensuring of our unity are key pieces for us, but of course, not the least, how to continue our positive role in international affairs. We want to be recognized as being problem solvers, as being bridge builders; not interested in accentuating differences. We have a motto in our foreign policy just now about -- from the independent (elective ?). It's "million friends and zero enemy." We are keen to build bridges, we have friends -- we are keen to be friendly to all and to ensure that we can really deliver in our international capacity.
CULLUM: One last question. When you were working towards your Ph.D., you wrote two dissertations: one on disarmament, and on intervention.
CULLUM: So what do you see ahead for disarmament, on the one hand, and international norms regarding intervention on the other?
NATALEGAWA: Well, I'll take the first one first, disarmament. This has been a very big year for disarmament, 2010; and I must acknowledge here, thanks principally to the changed approach by the U.S. administration. I know the U.S. administration and the Russian Federation, the START II -- the agreement that they have reached with the two of them have begun a new -- new possibilities.
Indonesia announced earlier this year, in April this year, our commitment to ratify the CTBT, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Indonesia is one of the -- is it nine, or 12? Nine? Indonesia is one of the nine countries whose certification of the CTBT is required before the treaty comes into effect. In the past, Indonesia has chosen to await ratification by the United States before --
CULLUM: That's been a long --
NATALEGAWA: -- before we proceed. But we recalibrate our position. Rather than simply follow, we choose to, hopefully, demonstrate and encourage. And hence, we announced that policy review -- policy statement. We are now fast-tracking our ratification process, hopefully by the end of this year.
So disarmament -- a very important issue, the classical sense, in the sense of a reduction, either for the nuclear arsenal of the established nuclear-weapons states, but the proliferation issues also must be very important. I know, of course, the United States very much are concerned about Iran, are very much concerned about North Korea. We are very much concerned over those two situation as well, but we want to be sure that the attempt -- or the effort to ensure nonproliferation is consistent with the principle of peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
So that's one.
On non-intervention, very much still current. But especially, since you spoke of Myanmar just now, how can we, in the present-day world, ensure that we can be concerned, we can have interests in developments of certain countries' internal situation without being seen to be interfering in the affairs of that country.
We do feel that in the present day and age it would be possible, it is possible to have a synergy between friendly concern, friendly interest, with the precepts of non-intervention.
CULLUM: Well, Dr. Natalegawa, thank you very much. Have a good week in New York. We're glad you're here.
NATALEGAWA: Thank you. (Applause.)
If I may, just very quickly, I'd like to -- once again, I'd like to thank everyone for making it possible for today.
And I'd like to -- on behalf of all of you, I'm sure, I hope, and I'm certain -- I'd like to say how very much we appreciate the manner you have conducted our conversation --
CULLUM: Thank you.
NATALEGAWA: -- Ms. Cullum. As one of you have said just now, you're obviously a person who is extremely well informed on many matters, including my own country. I'm especially pleased to acknowledge your very well-informed status vis-a-vis our foreign policy.
Thank you very much.
CULLUM: You're very kind. Thank you. (Applause.)
Thank you very much.