Indonesia and Singapore: rivalry and ASEAN regional nuclear cooperation

Francesca Giovannini (Oxford)




This paper comprises one of the three empirical chapters featured in my dissertation project, entitled: “Cooperating to Compete: the role of regional powers in global nuclear governance”. Specifically, the paper examines how the rivalry between Indonesia and Singapore has affected the development of ASEAN regional nuclear agenda in Southeast Asia. On the one hand, Indonesia, the historical leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, since the 1970s has unceasingly pursued the development of a regional nuclear agenda largely skewed towards nuclear disarmament objectives. Through the crafting of the Bangkok Treaty for the establishment of a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Treaty in Southeast Asia, for instance, Indonesia has aimed to halt great powers’ interference in intra-regional affairs, while also nudging nuclear-weapons states to fulfil their nuclear disarmament obligations as NPT signatory parties. On the other hand, Singapore, the minuscule city-state that is eternally suspicious of the intentions of its giant neighbour, has instead sought to manipulate ASEAN’s regional nuclear agenda to strengthen its informal, yet essential, partnership with the United States while countering its rival’s disarmament agenda. Thus, Singapore has actively lobbied ASEAN to lend open support to various U.S. non-proliferation and counter-proliferation initiatives, including the Proliferation Security Initiative that Indonesia staunchly opposes for both pragmatic and strategic reasons. Ultimately, my paper contends, ASEAN’s regional nuclear agenda has become the main playing field on which the quest for regional leadership by the two countries is fought. In my presentation at the conference, I will feature material (including interviews) collected during fieldwork in Jakarta, Indonesia, during October and November 2011.

Ms Francesca Giovannini

Francesca Giovannini is completing her D.Phil at Oxford University in the Department of Politics and International Relations. Her thesis, Cooperating to Compete: the role of regional powers in global nuclear governance, explores the role of regional powers in designing and influencing regional nuclear policies in Southeast Asia, Europe and Latin America. She has been awarded the 2013 MacArthur Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University, where she hopes to expand her dissertation into a book.

A recipient of the prestigious Rotary World Peace Fellowship (2005-07), Giovannini studied at the University of California, Berkeley, where she earned two Master’s Degrees, in International Relations and Middle Eastern Studies, and was subsequently appointed as lecturer in the Department of International and Area Studies for two years. She also held the position of Academic Coordinator of the Berkeley Summer School for the Global Generation from 2007 to 2010.

After completing her Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Bologna, Giovannini served in several international post-conflict state-building missions, in the Palestinian Territories, with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; in Turkey, with a network of humanitarian NGOs; and in Lebanon and the South Pacific, with the United Nations.