Indonesia is gearing up to turn its foreign policy focus westward when its role as Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) chair begins later this year, reports Jakarta Post.
The country is ready to expand the promotion of President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s “maritime axis” doctrine to the Indian Ocean when it takes over the IORA chairmanship from Australia, later this year, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi has said.
Boosting IORA’s visibility, both internally and externally, will be one of the main tasks as chairman, Retno said.
She believes there are very few Indonesians aware of IORA. Activities that make IORA more visible need to be intensified during our chairmanship.
“If we identify our foreign policy priorities for the next five years and connect them with IORA’s interest, the ‘maritime axis’ is a perfect fit,” Indonesia’s first female foreign minister added.
The minister said that her ministry will work with other stakeholders to study the six main priorities outlined in IORA and align them with the country's interests. IORA's key priorities are related to maritime security, fish culture, energy, disaster risk management, technology, science, tourism and cultural exchange.
Established in 1997 and headquartered in Mauritius, IORA, which was formerly known as the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), currently has 20 members.
IORA’s current members are Australia, Bangladesh, the Comoro Islands, India, Indonesia, Iran, Kenya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mozambique, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. China, Egypt, France, Japan, the UK and the US are dialogue partners.
It is large in terms of geographical size and population, but small in terms of impact. Indian Ocean is a source of immense natural wealth. Not less than 65% of crude oil, 53% natural gas, 80.7% gold, 55% tin, and 77.3% of natural rubber contained in the Indian Ocean and the countries bordering with it. In terms of population, one third of the total world population, or about 2 billion people are in the countries of the Indian Ocean.
The significance of Samudera Hindia (the Indian Ocean) is engrained in the minds of all Indonesian children as they are conditioned to think of the archipelago as a string of emeralds straddling the equator and stretched between two continents and two oceans.