The upcoming ASEAN Summit from May 7 to 9, 2011, provides an opportunity for its 10 member states to review the defense and security context of the continuing thrust as a pivotal regional grouping engaged in aligning major power interests in Southeast Asia. In strategic terms, there are five dimensions of military security that together define the political, economic and socio-cultural success of the ASEAN Security Community.

First, Satelllite-based cyber defense: the use of satellite communications technology to transmit, encrypt, capture and control the transmission and content of military communications in space, including tracking and intercepting systems utilized and deployed by the military.

The United States, Russia, Japan and China dominate space-based defense technology. European countries, Australia, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore provide first and second-tier advanced communications technology systems deployed by land, sea and air forces.

Second, Strategic Nuclear: nuclear weapons with high-grade explosive capability with launch-capabilities of over 6,500 kilometers from land, sea and air. The United States and Russia lead the field with over 8,000-12,000 strategic nuclear warheads with command and control capabilities. China and India have fewer warheads, shorter launches as well as lesser command and control capability.

Third, Ballistic Nuclear: nuclear weapons with launch capability at ranges of 1,500-2,000 kilometers.The United States, Russia, China, India, France, the United Kingdom and North Korea are states that possess warheads and delivery systems linked to tactical nuclear weapons, deployed in tandem with conventional forces.

Fourth, Tri-Service Conventional Defense: “The military balance” usually associated with distribution and the quality of conventional army, navy and air forces’ ability to defend territorial integrity and maintain “deterrence” in conventional terms. The US is the only power with Carrier Strike Group (CSG) capability in the region as well as worldwide.

Fifth, Undersea Capability: deployment of undersea nuclear powered/nuclear-weapon submarine deployment, armed with strategic missile strike capabilities. Only the United States has the range capability in terms of numbers and accuracy, with Russia, China and India actively developing anti-ship missile capability, designed at enhancing their respective “strategic space” and “far sea” presence.

The above macro-security dimensions underwrite both the intra-regional and trans-regional economic relations. Japan, South Korea and later China benefited from American “security assurance” that provided economic, trade and invesment commitments in the Pacific. ASEAN today has become a community of 10 nations with a combined GDP of US$1.4 trillion.

The security, trade and investment complementarities linking Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean are covered by America’s critical role as the “security assurance” underpinning trans-regional stability. It survived upheavals in Southeast Asia, periodic crises over the Taiwan Straits and occasional tensions in the Korean peninsula.

The rise of China and India as regional and global economic powers has given rise to a desire by both nations to enhance “strategic space” in their respective “core areas of national interest”, in Northeast Asia and the Indian Ocean respectively. China and India’s core area of security presence will be taken into greater account as each nation increases its conventional power capability and affects ASEAN’s stance on regional security.

The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)/ASEAN Security Community (ASC) aims to foster intra-regional links leading to market-driven economic prosperity. ASEAN+3 (Japan, South Korea, China), ASEAN+6 (Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, New Zealand, India) followed by ASEAN+8 with the entry of the United States and Russia in 2010, are enhancing the concept of regional security in an interconnected world.

The ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting, since May 2006, has provided a vehicle for ASEAN to provide “strategic space” among resident powers as well as calibrate “technological parity” with extra-regional military powers in order that regional security and economic progress become mutually reinforcing.

All of these collaborative clusters need to be carefully harmonized with the right pitch of military presence. The fulcrum of strategic “balance of power” and the evolving “power of balance”, incorporating economic, financial (AMRO, the ASEAN Macro Economics Research Office), trade (ACFTA, ASEAN-China Free Trade Area), investment and energy interactions need to be carefully calibrated by all nations in the region. The entire Trans Pacific Partnership community constitutes 78 percent of world GDP.

The key issues for ASEAN and for Indonesia in particular for the next 10-15 years: How coordinated and synchronized will ASEAN’s public and private leaders be to harness a concerted vision about its geo-political location relative to its geo-economic competitive strength? Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore exemplify the imperative to utilize “brain power” in order “to live off” the rest of the world precisely because they do not possess natural resources.

What combination of “hard”, “soft” and “smart” powers must ASEAN’s leadership groups in the government, in the military and in private business command in order to be able to connect and cooperate with the US, Japan, China, Russia and India? Can the national security state cope with technological, economic and financial globalization? Can territorial defenses adapt to the functional aspects of global economic and financial competitiveness arising from the pervasive uses of technological innovation?

With a population of almost 500 million, ASEAN must adopt comprehensive policy visions simultaneously linking the global, the regional, the national, the provincial and the local levels. There is a need for more skilled and educationally trained civilian, business and military leaders who are skilled at interfacing the planning of “military battles” over physical space with areas where “non-military battles” of ideas, innovation, knowledge and financial and management skills become increasingly prominent in determining a nation’s ability to survive in a “24/7” competitive world.

Within the fused economies of Northeast Asia, Southeast Asia, South Pacific and the Indian Ocean, ASEAN’s notion of total defense and security must merge territorial defense with functional defense. The real test for each ASEAN country is to provide broad-based social and economic justice at home. Indonesia must ensure sustainable human security, from Aceh to Papua, from North Sulawesi to East Nusa Tenggara. In the final analysis, social and economic justice is Indonesia’s best defense. A strong and stable Indonesia is in the interest of all ASEAN and for security cooperation with all major extra-regional powers.

*) The article was an excerpt from the opening remarks at the 4th NADI (Network of ASEAN Defense Institutes) Workshop in Jakarta on April 19, 2011.