GO SOUTH 2023
ANNUAL CONVENTION ON THE GLOBAL SOUTH:
Decentering the Indo-Pacific: Global South in a Changing World
Essentially, the geopolitical shift towards the Indo-Pacific not only mirrors the tangible alteration in the distribution of power but also emerges as an outcome of strategic policy narratives geared towards specific objectives. The unipolar world, consolidated after the end of the Cold War and more decisively during the Global War on Terror (GWOT) period, that constitutes the US as a global hegemon has been in crisis. We are now witnessing the reconsolidation of the geopolitical economy of the world, which leads to uncertain scenarios of conflict and confrontation in many regions across the globe. One of the most contested fronts is arguably the Indo-Pacific, a host for more than 65 per cent world economy and the most crucial route for global trade connectivity.
With the increased tensions between major powers, especially between the US and China and their respective allies, the Indo-Pacific is constituted as a strategic battle in the era of a post-unipolar world order transition. Many major powers have directed their foreign policy outlooks and strategies towards the Indo-Pacific, constructing this region as an economic and security battleground in which new patterns of alliance and competition are consolidated. Labelled as the ‘new Cold War’, such power contests may result in rival blocs, regional destabilisation and military confrontation—including the risks of nuclear war.
Conceiving the Indo-Pacific from the perspective of great power politics means to force the countries in the region to strategically pick a side in such a competitive situation. This demand to pick sides is clearly reflected in the case of Southeast Asian countries. With this background in mind, there is an urgent need to see the Indo-Pacific not simply from the perspectives of the great powers, but also from wider but less powerful actors. As such, the Indo-Pacific should be seen as complex socio-political realities of interdependence and interconnectedness that all parties need to struggle for regional stability and prosperity. As such it will also potentially open up the space for the Global South Indo-Pacific countries to project their interests in the region and contribute meaningfully to shape the changing world order.
The 2023 Annual Convention on the Global South is organised by the Institute of International Studies (IIS), Universitas Gadjah Mada. Initiated from the “Bandung Conference and Beyond” in 2015, IIS has committed to contributing to Global South studies by hosting the Annual Convention of the Global South since 2019. The upcoming forum aims at providing platforms for vibrant discussions and debates on the dynamics of the Indo-Pacific from various perspectives and salient issues. Comprehensive studies of the Indo-Pacific are required to better understand the challenges, opportunities and complexities of the region in a changing world order.
1. Theorising Indo-Pacific: Contested Visions and the Making of a Region
Regions are always socially and politically constructed. They are shaped through discursive and material contests. As a strategic region, the Indo-Pacific has been arguably constructed amid the tensions between the US and China. The latter perceives the Indo-Pacific discourse as the West-led campaigns to contain China rising. Currently, many major powers take the Indo-Pacific as the central avenue for their strategic foreign policy orientations, pursued through diverse—often conflicting—economic and military partnerships. Yet, as a region, Indo-Pacific is constructed through complex processes beyond the theses of great power politics. This panel seeks to theorise Indo-Pacific, its distinct characters and projections. How have the competing discourses and visions on Indo-Pacific influenced and enhanced theoretical debates in International Relations, especially in the field study of security, regional order and foreign policies? How have the different perspectives on the Indo-Pacific influenced the regional and global dynamics?
2. Indo-Pacific and the Global South: Repositions and Trajectories in a Post-Unipolar World
The Ukraine crisis and its subsequent events have vividly shown the reconsolidation of global politics. It may mark the crisis of the unipolar world order, although the alternative to it is unclear yet. On the one hand, the transition of world order has (or may) involved open confrontations and the making of political blocs– labelled as ‘new cold war politics– as aptly demonstrated in the case of Indo-Pacific. On the other hand, it also opens the space for regional consolidation in the Global South and the seeking for multipolar world order, as shown in the case of BRICS or other regional groupings like the Arab League and the African Union. This panel aims at situating Indo-Pacific in the context of global order transition and within the trends of regional consolidation in the Global South. How has the global order transition affected the dynamics of the Indo-Pacific? How have the ‘identities’ of the Indo-Pacific influenced different forms of subjectivities within the region and their trajectories? How to comprehend Indo-Pacific in the global trend of the Global South in the post-unipolar order?
3. ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific: Global South and Regional Intersections
As a response to the Indo-Pacific dynamics, ASEAN has introduced the so-called ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP). The AOIP essentially strengthens ASEAN’s search for an autonomous regional order in dealing with major power contests in the region. AOIP calls for the principles of ASEAN centrality, but it is never easy, as ASEAN member countries have been severely polarised. In fact, ASEAN has a long experience in its efforts to maintain regional order from its inception in the era of the Cold War. This panel aims to further discuss ASEAN in the context of Indo-Pacific dynamics. How have the competing discourses and power competition in the Indo-Pacific influenced regionalisation in South East Asia and beyond? What are the challenges and potentials in projecting ASEAN in a changing world order?
4. Reclaiming the Indo-Pacific: Beyond Great Power Politics?
Narratives of the Indo-Pacific have been largely articulated by great and middle powers (US, China, ASEAN, EU, Australia, Germany, UK, etc). This landscape has systematically restricted the idea of the Indo-Pacific as an arena of geopolitical competition. Alternative imaginations on the Indo-Pacific are, thus, missing, left unacknowledged. This panel explores spatial imaginaries of the Indo-Pacific that can transcend the restrictive view which posits the Indo-Pacific as an arena of inter-state competition. It is especially interested in visions of orders that are articulated by non-state actors, including youth, indigenous people, and other marginalised groups. How have non-major power and non-state perspectives developed in the construction of Indo-Pacific discourses? What are the implications of these vernacular discourses and narratives in projecting the Indo-Pacific?