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Reader riposte: Too much focus on 'hard security'

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3 April 2008 10:07

Peter McCawley writes:

Graeme Dobell's comment that 'One of the old divides in Australian diplomacy is between the Northeast Asianists and the Southeast Asianists' is quite true. And it is also true that Southeast Asian specialists have noticed this emphasis in the Prime Minister's several recent speeches about foreign affairs. Indeed, Indonesia's Defence Minister, Juwono Sudarsono, who was in Australia last week, has made public comment about the lack of any mention of Indonesia in Prime Minister Rudd's recent foreign affairs speech in Sydney. It's not surprising that Sudarsono noticed; he was at the head table at the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney where Mr Rudd gave his speech.

But there is another angle to the flavour of current discussion about Australian foreign affairs policy which is of interest to Asian specialists as well – the emphasis, as Graeme Dobell puts it, on 'hard security issues' in Asia.  There are two other key issues which attract much comment in public policy dialogue across the region which need much attention as well. These are, first, international support for programs to promote economic and development programs in Asia, and second, measures to boost 'soft' human security. It is notable, in this context, that when Indonesian Defence Minister Juwono Sudarsono addressed the East Asia Forum in Sydney last week, he spoke about issues such as mass poverty and unemployment in Indonesia, and the need to improve internal (as opposed to external) security across the nation. In short, for the vast majority of people in developing countries in Asia, the idea of promoting 'peace and prosperity' across the region means much more than an emphasis on hard security issues in Northeast Asia.

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