What about ASEAN maritime security and next week’s naval exercises?

Next week, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will begin joint military exercises. Officially invited ASEAN Solidarity Exercise Natuna (ASEX 01–Natuna), around Batam Island in the eastern approaches of the Straits of Malacca. It runs from September 18-23 Primarily sea exercises Includes regional navies, armies and air forces. They will focus on maritime security, disaster recovery and rescue operations rather than combat exercises. As a group, ASEAN has previously held joint exercises with other countries America And ChinaBut this is the first time that such exercises are a members-only affair.

The fact that Southeast Asian countries have chosen joint maritime exercises as a platform to openly reaffirm the ASEAN centrality indicates the importance the region places on maritime issues.

declared At the 20th ASEAN Defense Forces Summit in Bali in early June this year, the exercises were originally planned for the southern part of the South China Sea – where Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone overlaps with China’s „nine-dash line” – but should Moved from Within the archipelago of Indonesia in the southern Naduna Sea. Reports indicate This is due to sensitivities surrounding disputed claims between several ASEAN countries and China Some indicate The change was made at the behest of Cambodia. Indonesia’s military denied it was the result of external pressure. to say The change was made because the new location was more suited to the non-combat nature of the exercises, with priority given to „disaster-prone areas”.

Some researchers call the change of location a A missed opportunity Despite ASEAN’s exercises to challenge China’s „nine-dash line”. Explained As a demonstration of unity at a time when ASEAN feels stagnant amid continued Chinese assertiveness. Announcing the exercises, Indonesian National Armed Forces Chief Admiral Udo Marcono said, „This is about the ASEAN core.” shared among experts“Strengthen” exercises[ing] ASEAN Concept of Indo-Pacific perspective by focusing on maritime issues such as “Piracy, Maritime Accidents, Pollution and Search and Rescue”.

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Perhaps most notably, the fact that Southeast Asian countries have chosen joint maritime exercises as a platform for an apparent reaffirmation of ASEAN centrality indicates the importance the region attaches to maritime issues.

Australia can offer its experience to ASEAN with plans to build military maritime capability. Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard Marles (L) meets Vietnam’s Minister of National Defense General Phan Van Giang on November 25, 2022 (Kim Smith/Security Images)

As with many countries, ASEAN Centrality is a pillar of Australia’s engagement with the region, its importance enshrined in key documents such as the International Development Policy, Foreign Policy White Paper And Defense Strategy Review. All of these outline in different ways why and how Australia’s own security is linked to the security of Southeast Asia. This position is reinforced by the ministers’ speeches Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Richard MarlesAnd Foreign Minister Benny Wong All emphasize the need to work with the region to shape a shared future.

If these commitments are to be realised, Australia needs to listen and help with regional priorities. Just because Canberra did not participate in the ASEAN Solidarity Exercise Natuna does not mean that it cannot contribute to the same overarching goal of enhancing the ASEAN core through maritime security. To that end, what kinds of things can and should Australia do?

Noting the mutual benefits and their shared interest in a sustainable marine environment, A Latest Report – in consultation with 45 experts from across the region – explores how Australia and Southeast Asia can develop a joint agenda for maritime security. It outlines a vision of where Australia is headed[s] All elements of statecraft converge to address the maritime security challenges facing Southeast Asia, providing multiple pathways through which this can be realized.

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Much can be said for the value of Australia participating in joint exercises with regional partners, but sometimes less flashy options are equally effective.

This includes expanding English-language training programs to overcome barriers and pave the way for deeper cooperation, leveraging Australia’s experience and reputation as a provider of military maritime capacity-building programs by extending training to civilian and government officials in Southeast Asian countries. between security systems. The Australia Awards And ASEAN-Australia Defense Postgraduate Scholarship Programme Two mechanisms that can be extended and used not only for technical training and operational knowledge, but also for developing strategic thinking.

Australia excels in regional maritime domain awareness (MDA) through increased information sharing and joint analysis to support countries to respond quickly to incidents and set regional priorities. This can be achieved by building on existing agreements and arrangements, including a regional information fusion center in Singapore. Australia’s experience in supporting MDA, maritime security and infrastructure development across the Pacific provides valuable lessons.

The Australian government could work with Southeast Asian partners to establish an agreed single point of contact (SPOC) or lead agency for maritime security in each country that could relay information nationally. SPOCs can be a cost-effective solution for disseminating and sharing information, discussing challenges and developing proposals, and can be implemented with few administrative, legal or diplomatic barriers.

Finally, Australia can take a long-term, generational approach to maritime security issues and support youth engagement to use soft diplomacy to train the next generation of ASEAN and Australian leaders, foster cooperation and develop innovative security strategies. Successful ASEAN-Australia Emerging Leaders ProgrammeIt brings together social entrepreneurs from Australia and ASEAN member states, which could be expanded – and a marine conservation focus in the years it takes place.

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Much can be said for the value of Australia participating in joint exercises with regional partners, but sometimes less flashy options are equally effective. While Australia may be invited to participate in future joint exercises with ASEAN, it should continue to take a broader approach to strengthening regional maritime security. If Australia and Southeast Asia are to develop a joint agenda for maritime security, the group’s first member-only joint exercises and Canberra’s own efforts must be seen as two sides of the same coin.

This article draws Asia-Pacific Dialogue on Development, Diplomacy and Security (AP4D) Paper How Australia and Southeast Asia can develop a joint agenda for maritime securityproduced in part Blue protection project. AP4D thanks everyone involved in the consultation.

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