Last week, UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab visited Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam aim to strengthen closer trade and security ties with the two countries and discuss future cooperation on a variety of global challenges. In addition to high-level meetings with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, in addition to his diplomatic counterparts, Raab also meet ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi reiterated Britain’s commitment as a new dialogue partner of the Southeast Asian bloc. On April 8, UK also hosts one Troika Conversation with ASEAN countries mainly to discuss post-pandemic economic recovery, in which ASEAN officials sought further UK support for regional efforts to tackle contagion.
This intensification of diplomatic intervention is part of the UK’s “Global Great Britain” agenda, formed after the country left the European Union, in which Southeast Asia is seen as the focus. reasonable.
The United Kingdom has a history of deep attachment to Southeast Asia, mainly stemming from the legacy of imperialism in Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar and elsewhere. However, the British approach to the region since 1945 has been characterized by a certain degree of vacancy. One of the restraints heard in the Whitehall policymaking community since the 2016 referendum on Brexit has been the UK’s need to reorient its strategic focus on India. Ocean – Pacific Ocean. This is a tacit acknowledgment of the geopolitical and economic importance that Asia will hold to the future of international politics and the global economy, and London’s attempt to restore its position. His historical influence and leverage in the region.
With the recent publication of the UK’s long-awaited composite assessment of its foreign and defense policy, the UK government is doubling down on turning the “Indo-Pacific tilt. Binh Duong ”has become an indispensable part in a large scale “Great Britain” Agenda and shift of the country’s strategic focus to “East Suez.” The second phrase, first used by Boris Johnson in 2016, during his term of foreign minister, alludes to the 1968 decision by the Wilson government to withdraw British forces from the region.
The UK is well-positioned to be more involved in the security and military sectors. It is a core member of the Five Strength Defense Agreement (FPDA), a collective security agreement involving Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand, originally designed in 1971 to prevent Indonesia’s destabilizing policy towards Malaysia. Membership in the Five Eyes intelligence coalition with the US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, also gives Britain considerable leverage in the region, especially as the United States shifts toward increased strategic competition. with China.
The UK’s diplomatic engagement with Southeast Asia must be well-tuned, as Washington’s increasingly competitive approach to relations with China is critical to the UK’s strategic direction towards with the area. While London’s interests in the region are primarily based on British national interests, adopting a more confrontational approach to deepen a “special relationship” with Washington would be risky.
Since 2018, the UK has sent warships to the region to conduct free navigation operations (FONOP) aimed at deterring Chinese adventurism, and next month, the class carrier strike group The new Queen Elizabeth will be dispatched during the launch of the first operation to India. – The Pacific is part of the multinational naval force. Furthermore, ongoing discussions with Japan over a potential British military base in the country will further strengthen Britain’s role as a regional security agent.
The United Kingdom has possessed a springboard to enhance its power in the region, especially in Southeast Asia, by maintaining an army of 1,000 personnel stationed in Brunei, making it possible Britain’s only remaining permanent military presence in the region. In addition, the UK retains control over the Overseas Territories of British Indians, including Diego garcia, which serves as a joint Anglo-US military facility located in the half between Tanzania and Indonesia. This gives the UK the potential to play a key role in any case involving the waterways of Southeast Asia.
However, the UK will also face obstacles to its efforts to strengthen regional cohesion. London is eager to become the official dialogue partner of ASEAN, a position where it was previously an EU member. While the establishment of a diplomatic mission for the organization in early 2020 was a tangible signal of British interest in further boosting its involvement in Southeast Asia, the Boris administration. Johnson needs to consider some geopolitical concerns.
Another obstacle may be the reluctance of ASEAN members to get caught up in the great power competition between the US and China. Interaction with the UK could be hampered if increased participation in the UK region is seen as likely to lead to being caught up in a spiral of conflict with China. This outlook has come to life in recent months with an increase in sanctions between the West and China, over allegations of human rights violations against ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang. . On March 26, China imposed retaliation punishment on many UK politicians, consulting organizations and government agencies, adding to existing contradictions about British support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. The movement of British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab has so far been able to adopt this “no confrontation” attitude very well, although it is likely that this will become tense after London is recognized as a dialogue partner. of ASEAN.
However, since the Brexit referendum, the UK has taken steps to increase its engagement with ASEAN on the full scale. The UK has a number of ways to strengthen ties with the region, especially to address Southeast Asian nations that have been hit hard by the pandemic.
In the field of diplomacy, the UK has set up a specialized organization Mission to ASEAN in November 2019, including the appointment of first ambassadors specifically designated for the bloc. The Mission will work to develop some of the core areas of discussion that have been highlighted in the Integration Assessment, such as building more regional trade networks and promoting the Kingdom’s commercial presence. Brother. The UK could add some success to his transcripts, after successfully signing bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) with Singapore and Vietnam by the end of 2020. Overall trade priority. The UK’s Indo-Pacific is incorporated into the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a constellation of 11 Pacific Rim countries.
Despite the UK’s geographic distance from the CPTPP’s main area of operation, its existing security ties to the region – specifically the FPDA and the Five Eyes alliance – and the fact that it has maintained FTAs with seven CPTPP members, with two more members being negotiated, making the country a natural partner, like Elly Darkin have argued. Joining the CPTPP will also facilitate UK efforts to strengthen relations with ASEAN by demonstrating its commitment to the region across many policy areas.
Also emphasized in the new Integrated Assessment is the UK’s determination to drive soft power strategy through scientific development assistance and cooperation. The UK has provided more than US $ 385 million in development assistance annually to Southeast Asia in recent years. It has also revived Newton Foundation by investing up to $ 132.5 million to support international scientific and innovation cooperation in the region. The penetration of soft power instruments should be prioritized given the need of ASEAN states’ to rebuild their economies and reinforce their science-based public policies, both. that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown is lacking.
In short, Southeast Asia offers many opportunities for the UK to advance the global UK agenda, and its engagement with the region will test London’s ambitions to reinvent itself. created after Brexit and once again plays an important role in the world arena. The successful outcome of the UK’s commitment to Southeast Asia will depend on how it manages to position itself as a “credible” and “contributor” partner, while taking its approach. less confrontation to address important geopolitical sensitivities.