http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2011/03/28/india’s-role-indian-ocean-e-asian-regions.html I attended the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus meeting in Hanoi last October as advisor to Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro. It was quite a colorful sight to see the uniforms of various officers from so many countries. Both the ADMM and ADMM Plus are currently at a stage of mutual familiarization and trust-building â€” by adopting non-controversial joint programs, such as peacekeeping, disaster management, military medical programs and maritime security. The East Asia Summit (EAS), initiated by the 10 ASEAN members, is attended by the leaders (preferably the heads of governments) of the United States, China, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan. If we link the heading of this session and the overall theme of this Delhi Dialogue III, â€œBeyond the First Twenty Years of India-ASEAN Engagementâ€, it should be obvious that we are dealing for years to come with a changing geopolitical map, both in the East Asia/Pacific area and in the Indian Ocean area. And it is also obvious that with the impressive economic and technological achievements, including the growing military capabilities of China and India, these two major Asian powers have a dominating presence on the geopolitical map of East Asia, the Pacific region and the Indian Ocean regions. Todayâ€™s India is not the same as the India of 20 years ago. Similarly, the geopolitical setting within which ASEAN existed 20 years ago in East Asia, with the dramatic rise of China, is totally different today. ASEAN too, after 20 years, in all modesty, is now more cohesively equipped with a clearly formulated vision in coping with the future. Again, in all modesty, ASEAN has remained cohesive thanks to Indonesiaâ€™s achievement as the largest member state since the critical year of 1998 â€” critical, because of the Asian financial crisis and the resignation of then president Soeharto. The subsequent reformation movement pushed Indonesia into a new era of participatory democracy. The large archipelagic state did not disintegrate. As a matter of fact, Indonesia has managed to achieve constant economic growth during the last years, albeit more modest compared to Indiaâ€™s success, while consolidating its democratic institutions. It is in this context of a fluid geopolitical map that Indonesian Foreign Minister Dr. Marty Natalegawa calls for the establishment of a â€œdynamic equilibriumâ€ between the new geopolitical actors in Asia. I do not believe that from the outset the two Asian big powers, India and China, are locked in a confrontational trajectory. Itâ€™s true, however, that in order to protect and secure their extensive supply lines underpinning their respective high economic growth, each must enhance their naval capabilities. Both have to import a large percentage of their energy needs. Robert Kaplan, in an article in Foreign Affairs in 2009, which he expanded in his remarkable book recently published, Monsoon-The Future of American Power in the Indian Ocean, describes the unintended naval competition between India and China that could cause unnecessary destabilizing consequences in the wider Indian Ocean region. (See â€œRivalry in the Indian Oceanâ€ by Robert Kaplan, Foreign Affairs, New York, March/April 2009; Monsoon-The Indian Ocean And The Future of American Power, New York, 2010). It is very advisable indeed for ASEAN and its dialogue partners, or probably by maximizing the East Asia Summit process, to keep in constant touch with each other sorting out whatever misunderstandings or conflicts may arise. The journey toward reaching a new mutually acceptable strategic balance, or you may wish to call it a â€œdynamic equilibriumâ€ venture, will certainly not be an easy path to tread. Within the context of these notes I interpret the theme of our dialogue and the heading of this session as an indirect invitation to request our views regarding Indiaâ€™s role, given the emergence of a new geopolitical map in the Indian Ocean region and the East Asia/West Pacific region. For what itâ€™s worth, this Indonesian advice to our host country covers the following points: â€¢ India should enhance its diplomatic presence in the East Asian countries â€” beef-up your embassies with quality staffing and adequate operational funding. â€¢ Activities related to public diplomacy should be expanded, including spreading the rich Indian culture, also in its modern forms. The magic of Bollywood is one of Indiaâ€™s most effective communication channels. â€¢ The Indian Navy should increase its activities in East Asia by frequent port calls and various joint naval exercises. Whatever joint programs ADMM Plus states are planning, India should offer its active participation. In July 2005, Indiaâ€™s Naval Chief Adm. Arun Prakash made a port call to Tanjung Priok in Jakarta, with the carrier INS Viraat, accompanied by two guided missile destroyers. When The Jakarta Post interviewed him, his impressive personality and his informative interview was one effective example of Indiaâ€™s effective naval diplomacy (See The Jakarta Post, Friday, July 29, 2005: Admiral confident of Indiaâ€™s future role). â€¢ My last, modest, suggestion, looking at the map of the Indian Ocean region, especially the eastern part, it should be obvious that a broader and deeper naval cooperation is indeed necessary between the three littoral countries: India, Indonesia and Australia. Indonesiaâ€™s naval capability is still modest while the strategic sea lanes are located in the Indonesian archipelago: the Malacca Strait, the Sunda Strait, the Lombok Strait and the Makassar Strait. Closer cooperation with Australia and India would enable Indonesia to enhance its naval capability in the shortest time possible. Thus, the Indonesian Navy will be in a better position to carry out its responsibility to secure passage through the above mentioned strategic straits. â€¢ Finally, it is interesting to observe Chinaâ€™s increasing presence in Timor Leste, displaying its generosity in constructing public buildings, including the presidential palace. China is also apparently keen to secure passage through the Wetar Strait off Timor Leste, as a possible alternative, since the above mentioned straits are potential â€œchoke pointsâ€. Chinese President Hu Jintao has bemoaned that the Malacca Strait is â€œChinaâ€™s dilemmaâ€. The writer is former ambassador to Australia and currently the co-chairman of the Indonesian forum of (retired) ambassadors. The article is based on his speech delivered at the recently held India/Asean Dialogue in New Delhi.