The Future of The Diplomatic Capital of ASEAN

Less than a year ago when I visited the ASEAN Secretariat for a four-days meeting, one of the resource-persons told us, the participants, that Jakarta is unique, not only because it is the capital of the country but it also hosts the ASEAN Secretariat — that automatically makes it host the diplomatic missions for ASEAN too.

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Pak Romeo, the speaker at the time, compared Jakarta to Brussels — the City of Brussels, the capital of the European Union (EU), hosts both diplomatic missions for Belgium and for the EU.

Although I have been very excited about the plan to move Indonesia’s capital city from Jakarta to somewhere in Kalimantan, this raises the question as to the future of Jakarta as the Diplomatic Capital of ASEAN.

In the eve of Indonesia’s 74th independence commemoration, President Joko Widodo asked for the parliament’s blessings for his plan to move the capital city from Jakarta to Kalimantan — the speech took place in the parliament building, attended by the most important and powerful political figures you can think of. (President Joko Widodo has not yet specified where in Kalimantan would it be.)

Only days before that, President Jokowi was in the ASEAN Secretariat complex, officially opened the new building, that was funded by Indonesia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a gift or contribution for ASEAN. He said that he hopes the building can be a good use for the organization. This creates confusion for some people, while making some others raise their eyebrows.

On a side note, the plan to move the capital city of the country to Kalimantan was not even on the debate during the Presidential election. Not even once.

Noting that the amount of money poured by the Indonesian government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to build the new ASEAN Secretariat building — to replace the now so-called “the heritage building” — is not little, some say that the government is likely to keep the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, while moving the capital city of the country to Kalimantan.

Some others say that the plan was not well coordinated, “How come this happens, right? The government wants to move the capital city to Kalimantan; but they keep going with the plan for the ASEAN Secretariat new building.”

If President Joko Widodo is to move the capital city of the country to Kalimantan but (as we do not know it yet) keep the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Jakarta will absolutely be no Brussels.

In this case, maybe I can say to Pak Romeo quietly, just on my mind without actually telling him, “Pak Romeo, about Jakarta and Brussels… Maybe now, not so much.”

In addition to that, several weeks ago, I was caught up in a discussion with my close friend. He mentioned that this plan is very surprising for some diplomatic corps. The United States, for example, has just finished the construction of their embassy’s new buildings.

I was also just reminded that the European Union’s mission has just moved to a new tower after years staying in Jalan Sudirman (just near the now Bendungan Hilir MRT Station) — although this is absolutely in a scale with so much less inconvenience that that of the United States.

Some articles back in this blog, I wrote how exciting the idea for Jakarta to host the third Trump-Kim summit. Something that can coincide the zest to resonate Jakarta as the diplomatic capital of ASEAN. Now? Maybe not so much.

The plan to move the capital city of the country to Kalimantan was of course a big blog to Jokowi’s own Ministry of Foreign Affairs, because the ministry is endeavouring to promote Jakarta as the capital city of ASEAN — unless the government keeps the ASEAN Secretariat and all diplomatic missions to it thereof in Jakarta while moving the capital city of the country to Kalimantan.

If that is the case, we will see a slight growth in the number of diplomatic missions. As of now, most of the diplomatic missions to ASEAN, aside that of Indonesia’s is located in the same place with that country’s or that organization’s mission to Indonesia. (Indonesia’s permanent mission to ASEAN is located in Jalan Sisingamangaraja near Senayan City).

As the Jakarta Post puts it in an article published several days ago, maybe Jakarta and the new capital city will be more comparable to that of New York City and Washington DC — where the Headquarter of the United Nations is located in New York City, along with all permanent mission to the organization, while all embassies are located in Washington DC.

But Jakarta and Brussels? Maybe not so much.

International Relations enthusiast

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