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Indonesia - Foreign Relations

Indonesia is the fourth-largest nation in the world by population and its GDPincreased steadily — albeit with huge inequality — since its transition to electoral democracy in 1998. Indonesia sought to expand from a regional leader to a global one. It's not unfeasible - some economists say Indonesia is poised to become an emerging economic power similar to China and India. Early in his presidency, President Jokowi seemed to shift his foreign policy priorities from regional to global. In 2014, when he was elected, one of Jokowi's top policy advisors said, "We used to say ASEAN [The Association of Southeast Asian Nations] is the cornerstone of our foreign policy. Now we change it to a cornerstone of our foreign policy."

Although Indonesia had been somewhat reticent on the global stage under previous presidential administrations, like that of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, it does have a track record of international leadership. Indonesia spearheaded the midcentury Non-Aligned Movement of developing nations that refused to take sides with the U.S. or Soviet Union in the Cold War. The 1955 Bandung Conference, organized by Indonesia's founding president Sukarno, clinched the nascent movement, and was attended by the likes of Ho Chi Minh, Nehru, and Gamel Abdul Nasser. The NAM continued to this day, now with 120 member states — and its headquarters remain in Jakarta.

Since independence in 1945, Indonesia espoused a "free and active" foreign policy, seeking to play a role in regional affairs commensurate with its size and location but avoiding involvement in conflicts among major powers. The internal dynamics of Indonesian politics since independence have been linked to an external environment perceived as inherently dangerous.

Indonesian foreign policy had as its most important goals security of the state and territorial integrity. The jurisdictional boundaries of the state were greatly expanded with the incorporation of the “archipelago principle” into the new international law of the sea, a new regime codified as the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982. The archipelago principle effectively territorialized all ocean space inside straight baselines drawn from the farthest points of the most distant islands of Indonesia, thus giving new sanction to the Indonesian doctrine of the political and security unity of archipelagic land and sea space (wawasan nusantara), first promulgated in the 1950s.

Sukarno’s response to challenge was to attack the status quo, to “live dangerously,” to cite his 1964 Independence Day address, “A Year of Living Dangerously.” Beginning with Suharto, the approach of subsequent governments had been one of cooperation and accommodation in order to gain international support for Indonesia’s political stability and economic development while, at the same time, maintaining its freedom of action. Nonetheless, Indonesia’s level of engagement with the rest of the world fluctuated, mainly dependent on domestic developments: it was high under Sukarno, in the latter half of Suharto’s three decades in power, and again in the early twenty-first century, but low in the first half of the New Order and in the transitional period after the 1997–98 Asian financial crisis.

Sukarno relished leading the “new emerging forces” against the “old established forces,” whereas subsequent governments have turned to the Western developed economies for assistance. From 1967 to 1991, countries aiding Indonesia organized as a consortium in the Inter-Governmental Group on Indonesia (IGGI), subsequently reorganized in 1992 without the Netherlands— and with Japan as chair—as the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI). These countries, along with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (see Glossary), gave massive economic assistance, amounting in the 2006 budget to more than US$5.4 billion in loans and grants. Even after the Indonesian government disbanded the CGI in 2007, foreign assistance continues on a bilateral basis. The pragmatic, low-profile style of post-Sukarno administrations had been a far cry from the radical internationalism and confrontational anti-imperialism of his foreign policy, although there had been some continuity in a nationalism that colored Indonesia’s perceptions of its role in the region.

Indonesian foreign policy under the "New Order" government of President Suharto moved away from the stridently anti-Western, anti-American posturing that characterized the latter part of the Soekarno era. Following two decades of New Order “low-profile” foreign policy, by Suharto’s fourth term (1983–88) a more assertive Indonesian voice on foreign policy was heard, as Jakarta began to reaffirm its claim to a leadership position, both regionally and worldwide, corresponding to its geographic vastness, resource endowment, population, and political stability.

Following Suharto's ouster in 1998, Indonesia's Presidents have preserved the broad outlines of Suharto's independent, moderate foreign policy. The traumatic separation of East Timor from Indonesia after an August 1999 East Timor referendum, and subsequent events in East Timor (now Timor-Leste) and West Timor, strained Indonesia's relations with the international community.

A cornerstone of Indonesia's contemporary foreign policy is its participation in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which it was a founding member in 1967 with Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. Since then, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, and Cambodia also have joined ASEAN. While organized to promote common economic, social, and cultural goals, ASEAN acquired a security dimension after Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia in 1979. The security policy aspect of ASEAN expanded with the establishment of the ASEAN Regional Forum in 1994, in which 22 countries participate, including the United States.

Indonesia also was one of the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and has taken moderate positions in its councils. As NAM Chairman in 1992-95, Indonesia led NAM positions away from the rhetoric of North-South confrontation, advocating instead the broadening of North-South cooperation in the area of development. In May 2005, the Yudhoyono administration, in a major effort to reinvigorate its leadership of the NAM and reset the movement's future course, hosted an Asia-Africa Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the NAM in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955. Indonesia continues to be a prominent leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, and hosted the NAM Ministerial meeting in 2011. Indonesia sees itself as a bridge-builder between the West and foreign policy views of the NAM and Group of 77 (G-77) that are contrary to those of the United States.

While not an Islamic state, Indonesia has the world's largest Muslim population and is a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). It carefully considers the interests of Islamic solidarity in its foreign policy decisions while providing a moderating influence in the OIC. President Wahid, for example, pursued better relations with Israel; Foreign Minister Noer Hassan Wirajuda participated in the November 2007 Middle East peace conference in Annapolis.

After Soekarno’s fall from power in 1966, Indonesia welcomed and maintained close relations with the donor community, particularly the United States, Western Europe, Australia, and Japan, through the Intergovernmental Group on Indonesia (IGGI) and its successor, the Consultative Group on Indonesia (CGI), which have provided substantial foreign economic assistance.

Indonesia has been a strong supporter of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. Largely through the efforts of President Suharto at the 1994 meeting in Bogor, Indonesia, APEC members agreed to implement free trade in the region by 2010 for industrialized economies and 2020 for developing economies.

In 2008, Indonesia finalized its Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Japan, a significant trade partner and Indonesia's biggest foreign investor. The agreement is Indonesia's first bilateral free trade deal and exempts Indonesia from 90% of Japanese import duties.

President Yudhoyono sought a higher international profile for Indonesia. In March 2006, Yudhoyono traveled to Burma to discuss democratic reform and visited several Middle Eastern countries in April and May 2006. Yudhoyono delivered a major speech in Saudi Arabia, encouraging the Muslim world to embrace globalization and technology for greater social and economic progress. In November 2006, Indonesia sent about 1,000 peacekeeping troops to southern Lebanon to be part of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and replaced those troops with a second contingent a year later. In 2007 and 2008, Indonesia held a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. President Yudhoyono also developed strategic partnerships with several countries, including the Netherlands.

As he began his second term in office, which began on 20 October 2009, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) sought an expanded global role for Indonesia. He wanted his country to bridge the gap between developing and developed countries in the G20. He also sought a role building understanding between Muslims and the West and bridging the democratic divide. Yudhoyono's vision of Indonesia's global role presents opportunities for greater cooperation on critical foreign policy priorities, including Afghanistan, climate change, Burma, nonproliferation and Middle East peace. Consistent with its foreign policy of nonalignment, Indonesia does not maintain defense pacts with other nations. It has security agreements with a broad range of countries (not including the United States), and it does participate in combined military exercises with several other countries. Over the years, Indonesia also contributed troop contingents—some including either military or police personnel or both—to most UN peacekeeping forces deployed to global trouble spots. Among other places, Indonesia sent forces to the Suez Canal–Sinai Peninsula area (1957 and 1973–79), Democratic Republic of the Congo (1960–64), Iran–Iraq border (1988–90), Namibia (1989–90), Kuwait–Iraq border (1991), Somalia (1991), Cambodia (1991–93), Bosnia–Herzegovina (2000), and Lebanon (2006–8).

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Page last modified: 06-01-2020 17:27:34 ZULU