Indonesia’s Maritime Axis and the Security of Sea Lanes of Communica-tions (SLOCs) in the Indo-Pacific

During the Cold War, the Indo-Pacific region was only another region for proxy wars between the two blocs. However in the 21st century, the Indo-Pacific region has gained a geopolitical significance due its important role in maintaining global energy security. The Indo-Pacific hosts vital sea lanes of communica-tion (SLOCs) that are vital global economic lifelines for the advanced economies of the world, including the rising China and also the United States. Most of international seaborne cargo passing through the SLOCs in the Indo-Pacific is valuable energy resources — oil, gas, and coal — from the Gulf petro-economies to the advanced and emerging Asian economies. In 2012, seaborne trade reached 9.2 billion tons world-wide and Asia saw the largest amount, surpassing the Americas significantly (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, 2013). Maintaining the security of SLOCs have become an essential concern for great powers, such as China and India, and also emerging powers, i.e. littoral states, alike. As such, the Indo-Pacific region has become an unpredictable and complex environment full of intersecting and overlap-ping interests from many countries.

As a littoral country in the Indo-Pacific, Indonesia relies heavily on the SLOCs in the Indo-Pacific. Indonesia, as a developing economy, requires a steady supply in oil and gas from the Gulf. Statistics from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources (ESDM) in Indonesia show that in 2012, oil consumption reached 595 million barrels of oil equivalent (Mboe), whereas natural gas consumption reached 255 Mboe (Kementerian Energi dan Sumber Daya Mineral, 2013a). The ESDM predicts Indonesia’s total energy consumption will increase by 5.5% per year until 2035, with oil and gas making up more than 50% of the energy mix (Kementerian Energi dan Sumber Daya Mineral, 2013b). A sudden disturbance in oil re-sources would have a catastrophic effect on energy security in Indonesia, which could lead to other security implications. Indonesia has mostly been active in safeguarding the Malacca Strait, one vital SLOC in the Indo-Pacific. Efforts to secure the Malacca Strait began in 2004, with the establishment of the trilateral MALSINDO (Malaysia-Singapore-Indonesia) joint patrols. In 2005, the Eyes in the Sky (EIS) program were launched as part of the Malacca Strait Security Initiative (MSSI). The program was also a trilateral effort by Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore to curb maritime security threats in the Malacca Strait (Vavro, 2008). To further increase Indonesia’s security role in the Malacca, incumbent Joko Widodo proposed his maritime axis doctrine, which seeks to expand Indonesia’s role as a guarantor of maritime security not only in Southeast Asia, but the entire Indo-Pacific.

This paper reviews the maritime security challenges in the SLOCs of the Indo-Pacific. Then, we attempt to place Joko Widodo’s maritime axis in the context of addressing these challenges. Joko Widodo’s global maritime axis attempts to expand Indonesia’s mari-time influence from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean. To meet that end, Indonesia has commenced domestic, bilateral, and multilateral efforts.

Author : I Gusti Bagus Dharma Agastia and Anak Agung Banyu Perwita