The Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions are amongst the most dynamic in the world as well as centers of economic growth for decades.
As a result, these regions continue to experience geopolitical and geostrategic shifts. These shifts present opportunities as well as challenges.
On the one hand, the economic growth of the region opens up possibilities of cooperation to alleviate poverty and elevate living standards of millions of people. On the other hand, the rise of material powers, i.e. economic and military, requires avoiding the deepening of mistrust, miscalculation, and patterns of behavior based on a zero-sum game.
Southeast Asia lies in the center of these dynamic regions and is a very important conduit and portal to the same.
Therefore, it is in the interest of ASEAN to lead the shaping of their economic and security architecture and ensure that such dynamics will continue to bring about peace, security, stability and prosperity for the peoples in the Southeast Asia as well as in the wider Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions or the Indo-Pacific.
ASEAN, which for decades has been engaging in the development of an inclusive regional architecture, needs to consistently come up with its collective leadership in forging and shaping the vision for closer cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and to continue to maintain its central role in the evolving regional architecture in Southeast Asia and its surrounding regions.
ASEAN also needs to continue being an honest broker within the strategic environment of competing interests.
Against this backdrop, ASEAN Leaders have agreed to further discuss an initiative that reinforces the ASEAN-centered regional architecture, namely, ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.
This Outlook is not aimed at creating new mechanisms or replacing existing ones; rather, it is an Outlook intended to enhance ASEAN’s Community building process and to strengthen and give new momentum for existing ASEAN-led mechanisms to better face challenges and seize opportunities arising from the current and future regional and global environments.
Moreover, the Outlook is intended to be inclusive in terms of ideas and proposals.
ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific envisages ASEAN Centrality as the underlying principle for promoting cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, with ASEAN-led mechanisms, such as the East Asia Summit (EAS), as platforms for dialogue and implementation of the Indo–Pacific cooperation, while preserving their formats.
Furthermore, ASEAN may also seek to develop, where appropriate, cooperation with other regional and sub-regional mechanisms in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions on specific areas of common interests to complement the relevant initiatives.
Download the full statement here.