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Will Indonesia Become a Global Leader?

This debate occurred at the end of last Indonesian Foreign Policy Class. At first, the theme was about “Indonesia’s Worldview and Foreign Policy”. We explore more about how Indonesia’s worldview affects its foreign policy. We began the analyzes with two hypothetical statements: Are RI’s perception of the country’s world role and the realities in tension? And Is Indonesia entitled to a leadership role in the region as well in the world?
To answer that two hypothetical statements, we must understand the history background of Indonesian Foreign Policy. Indonesia’s worldview from time to time always interfered by the president’s worldview. The meaning of nation’s worldview itself is the dominant perception of the nature of the world system and its place in that system. As Benedict Khen Leong Ang said in his article “ Indonesian Foreign Policy, Change and Continuity Amid A Changing Environment”, the first main characteristic of Indonesian foreign policy is change. What are the changes? The changes are aim and goals, priority, and perception. Indonesian priority of its foreign policy always subjected mainly to the leader’s worldview and the leader’s perception on International Relations. Therefore, Indonesian foreign policy from time to time always changes as the change on leader.
Before Indonesia get its independence, Indonesia worldview primarily originates in country nationalism with the spirit of anti colonialism and national consolidation. After the Independence in 1945, Indonesia began the articulation of values that underpin Indonesian foreign policy. That principle value articulated by the first vice president of Indonesia, Mohammad Hatta. He said that “the policy of the Republic must be resolved in the light of its own interests and should be executed in consonance with the facts that it face…”. It means that Indonesia has the right to be the subject of its own history, rather than an object. That famous speech of Hatta also articulated the second mainly characteristic of Indonesian foreign policy, the principle of “ free and active” , it means Indonesia is free, not aligning in one block but Indonesia should be active in struggling its national interest. Those principle continuously become the main principle of Indonesian foreign policy until now. Soekarno himself as the leader of Indonesia at that time had a focus on political revolutionary view. He did some action like using Asian African Congress in 1955 to spread his view about anti colonialism, equality, respect for the sovereignty. Those views could be recognized as radical worldview of Soekarno : political revolutionary. Soekarno also called Indonesia as “a light house of the third world” because he wants the world to see Indonesia as the role model of independence. We may conclude that Soekarno had the ambition of Indonesia to become the leader of third world countries.
Unlike Soekarno, who had a political revolutionary worldview, the second president of Indonesia, Soeharto focused on economic development. As a reluctant orator, he shifted our orientation from alignment global left to the right in order to look for financial aid. Our shifting from making revolution to developing economy served the dual function : increasing living standard of Indonesian people (by gaining financial aid) and also consolidate support for the new regime. The world actually perceived Indonesia differently at Soekarno and Soeharto era because the way of Indonesia perceived the world also different in both era. Beside the change of priority and goals in foreign policy, there was a continuity perception of Indonesia’s worldview. Indonesia’s worldview about bipolar international system, the underlying attitudes about superpowers (US and SU) remained similar. Indonesia saw US as important as China as a source of development. At the time of new order, Indonesia played very pragmatic role in international relations.
Later, Soeharto made some action in order to make Indonesia had remarkable position and potential among third world states. We may identify that by looking the efforts of cultivation of regional and wider global role as Indonesia became a founding member of ASEAN, held the AAC in 1955, get involved with Non Alignment Movement, OIC, and many international forum and groups especially after economic miracle occurred in the late of 1980’s. Many achievements that Indonesia got like held the Jakarta Informal Meeting, Non Alignment Movement leadership in 1992, and hosted 2nd APEC meeting shows that “the time for Indonesia to play more active and assertive in world affairs has come”, as Ali Alatas, the former minister of foreign affairs said. To protect our position, Soeharto took an unique course, making a cooperation with our neighbor such as Australia in 1995.
The transformation from new order into reformation order also impacts the Indonesian foreign policy. After facing post transition presidents, Indonesia seemed to has a rational and realistic playing in international world. Indonesian foreign policy went through seven years of fighting fires as the country used the diplomacy with narrow ambitions to help the country’s economic recovery, prevent the separatist movements, and to build suppors of democratization. As SBY the leader of Indonesia now asserting Indonesia’s right to lead in global and regional area.
Indonesia’s worldview interfered by the values such as anti colonialism, movement, justice, fairness, and tolerance, global peace, interfaith dialogue, and non-interference value. But the fact showed that Indonesia did not really live up with those values because Indonesia did the ‘aggression’ on East Timor. Beside values, Indonesia’s worldview of the world system and great powers remained still. Indonesia sees the US as the only super-power now that can provide financial aid and exchange trade. Indonesia-US has a mutual relationship, because one side Indonesia get the aids and opportunity to trade, on the other side US has the interest to block the terrorism movement. Indonesia also view Asian theater equally importance, like Indonesia’s view on Japan as the country which has economic power also as an actor for regional security. So, we can conclude that Indonesia is hedging and moving away from its tacit Western alignment under Soeharto to establish more balances foreign policy. Thus, Indonesia’s golden world “multilateral” is so meaningful in solving the global problems.
The values and belief of Indonesia’s basic foreign policy worldview impel the country toward certain relatively consistent priorities in foreign policy which are the importance of international institutions, protecting Indonesia’s territorial integrity, protecting Indonesia’s sovereignty, maintaining free and active foreign policy, using diplomacy and being a bridge between worlds, and claiming the right to lead. For the last priority, there is a consistent underlying perception that Indonesia’s is entitled to a major role in world affairs for a number of reasons : the nation’s size and it’s location, the country’s history and rich culture, and Indonesia’s view as a principled participant in world affairs. Size, strategic location, history, principled behavior and moderation are the core values that indicate Indonesia should have an important position in the world. No reason for Indonesia not to take part in the word system.
Indonesia’s worldview is meaningful for the country engagement with region and the world. Some action that Indonesia should take in its foreign policy are hold the nation together and protect sovereignty, entangle the webs of IO to protect the nations and promote global values, and focus on diplomacy. So, we may say that Indonesians are entitled to a leadership role in the world. As SBY said on Deplu 60th anniversary “We should be able to lead a certain issues in IR”. Also we may conclude that Indonesia’s perception of the country’s world and the realities of its capacities are intention.
But, the final remark of this lecture was unfinished. There still debatable whether Indonesia will be a global leader or not. Some said that Indonesia may become a global leader by its own capabilities. On the other hand, someone said that Indonesia can not be a global leader because there are so many domestic problems such as economic problem that is very doubtful to be solved. Beside Indonesia does not have a big power such US’s to lead the world. In my opinion, Indonesia does have capabilities in leading the world, but still it is in progress on becoming new emerging forces and a leader to the country of the world, especially in ASEAN region. Now, it is time for us to do a hard work to prove that Indonesia have the capabilities to lead the world and will become a global leader.


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