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Leonard Felix Hutabarat Head of Centre for Policy Analysis and Development on American and European Regions
Indonesia's free and active foreign policy remains relevant

Presented at a scholarly roundtable seminar taking the theme "Building the Strategies of Balance of Power within the Framework of Reactualizing Indonesia's Free and Active Foreign Policy", organized by the Global Future Institute (GFI) in collaboration with the students of the Faculty of International Relations of National University that are members of the so-called Vox Muda, on Monday, (5/12/2016) in Jakarta.

Thanks for (giving me) the opportunity, honourable Ambassador Urip, and my friends for your input as such an opinion that appears on the surface. If we, from the center for studies, can see whether the future of the policy or can we explain the existing phenomenon to be understood conceptually or how can it be practiced. Sometimes, the concept is ideal but could not be practiced. There must be an explanation for it. Or for example, what concept is done now and how its explanation.

I tried to describe some of the terms of how the politics of management in the era of President Joko Widodo. What changes and what might be different, but some friends have already mapped out how the expectations and how the fact appearing to the public. Secondly, the challenges faced by our country, the global situation, what development is currently happening.

Perhaps, thirdly, expecting to know how we look at the existing global situation and what will it look like in the future.

Firstly, I agreed with the statement made by President Sukarno, the First President of the Republic of Indonesia saying never ever forget history, because of history we could exist and what we did in the past determines us at this time, what we do today determines our future.

So Mr Dahnil Anzar Simanjuntak, the chairman of the Central Board of Muhammadiyah Youth called for the importance of historical literacy that if we understand our foreign policy, never forget the founding fathers of ours. Well, Foreign policy worldwide was largely determined by the geographical location of the country.

So, if it is a continental continental, its politics is continental. Then if it is in linelock, it will be in linelock. Then if a large archipelagic country like Indonesia and dealing on the position of the buffer zone, Indonesia will also be determined by it. So, like it or not, I want to follow the US foreign policy or I do not want foreign policy of Singapore that is small, but because we are also born and raised in the country so we live its  political policies.

Thus, the government will oversee what is the national interest. So, sometimes there is something that is ideal, there is a reality, but how to define it. When we see it conceptually or the reality of the field, the nastional interest should be taken into account. So, there is no permanent enemies, but always permanent interests.

So, later the rise and fall of our government whether to the west or to the east, all that could be explained from the eras of Sukarno, Suharto till Mr Joko Wdodo.

So if we look at it in this perspective, the foundation is in the Preamble of the 1945 Constitution, particularly in paragraph 4, then that's the cornerstone of our constitution in foreign policy, that Indonesia would be inward looking, but we will be outward looking. We will contribute to creating world peace. We will participate in establishing world order. Because that's the focus of our attention and we will not care about what is going on in various parts of the world. Including the contribution of Indonesia in the fight for Palestine as an independent state. Similarly, our contribution in the field of global politics.

Thus Indonesia will always be looking outward. Likewise, when our President, Mr. Widodo has embodied the so-called Trisakti (Political Sovereignty, Economic Self-Reliance, and Cultural personality), which is then poured on the Wawacita agenda. The Indonesia's free and active foreign policy has actually not changed but is in accordance with with the Preamble of the 1945 Constitution. On this stand that our free and active foreign policy remains independent, sustanable and applicable.

Only now, the focus of attention of the government of President Jokowi is in the field of maritime. We focus on building the World maritime axis. It clearly has reaffirmed the Indonesia's direction intending to become the pivot that aligns itself with our identity as a nation, which is located in the middle of the north, south, east, west, and all interests is definitely in it. However we declare ourselves to be in the middle of the wide range of interests, we say this is our national interest. While maximizing our strategic position and taking advantage of the values of or maritime strength solely for the the Indonesia's national interest.

So, that's actually the reaffirmation of our foreign policy. Well, if seen from its name Trisakti, Nawacita, our foreign policy up to 2019, the Foreign Affairs Ministry has set our four priorities. Such as maintaining the sovereignty, protecting the citizens, economic diplomacy and affirming our identity as a maritime nation and the last is our activity in international politics in the region. That is obvious. Thus we can already see the future direction a continuity in implementing the principles of free and active foreign policy. Only now we further highlight the identity of Indonesia as a maritime nation.

This is the priority of Indonesia now. So, when stating that diplomacy for the people does not mean diplomacy for the people, but the emphasis is on the fact that the actual foreign policy is an extension of domestic interests. It is important to understand, because we can never expect a foreign policy that is great, powerful, influential when we do not have the national capacity in the country.

Our president Mr. Jokowi was convinced of it. So the government does care about foreign policy, but when we do not have the national capacity to influence where our domestic strength, then it is impossible that we will affect other countries.

We are incorporated as one of the G-20, but may we ask again as the G-20 member country to know what is our national capacity expected by other countries? For example, if we want to see Africa, we have an interest in Africa, it is indeed true. But the question is that, whether it is now the time or not?

We have an integrated promotion agency, we try something to Africa, we have expressed to domestic stakeholders not to focus more on our traditional phrase. We see only what is in Western Europe, the United States, and then China and Japan. It's true facts on the ground, after 50 years of the republic of Indonesia, there have only been partnerships with the four countries.

Well now, would our entrepreneurs try to see the African region, or we try to explore possible partnerships with the Middle East countries? When they do not want to try to come to that direction, then in the field of trade and economic interests, we will still rely on five to ten certain countries.

Therefore we need to consider it. Will we have the diversification in the field of trade economy? Will we have the diversification in the field of investment? Will we send students to places that are different than we've done in the last 50 years? So our people thinking is not easily be contaminated like too American minded.

Now, if for example our students do not want to study in different places in the past 50 years that have always been the destination of our students, I think it will be difficult also for us to change it.

Or may we imagine we have such an Indonesian Aid, like America with the USAID, Australia with the Australian Aid? Will we have a body like that? So that the ministry will mobilize various national sources so that we can show that we have a goal to build an influence on other countries.

So through our Indonesia Aid we established, as the G-20 member country Indonesia has a national capacity to provide scholarships, provide technology transfer capacity, provide economic aid to countries which, according to us, are under ourselves. Will and can we be like that? We have the national capacity or not? Because if we do not have the capacity later other countries will say, Indonesia no action, talk only.

But, the real is that we need scholarships for agricultural students. Well, now for example we give scholarships, the Education Ministry provides several scholarships, Foreign Affairs Ministry provides several scholarships, Bappenas (National Development Planning Agency) provides scholarships as well, but all of them provide no more quota. Will all those scholarships be made one?

As well as our promotion of trade, tourism and investment delivered by our president, put together and made a big one. Well, this needs the agreement of all parties. If indeed our vision as a big country is directed to do great and do something with a large capacity. Well, this is what we see for the future of our country.

In terms of the global challenges, if we are to understand the geo-political and geo-economic, Foreign Affairs Ministry will always adjust to the context. For example, all changed when the Cold War ended. ASEAN changed after the 1990s, so we needed to normalize diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China. Likewise, in our relations with Russia, and other countries. All changed due to the different context.

So, if now there has been a geopolitical shift to Asia-Pacific, how the direction of US foreign policy, what does it look like, so we will wait for America to change what or how it is, following the elect president Donald Trump. Similarly with China, then, and how will our region in its interaction with the Western European countries.

Surely the problems of geopolitics and geo-economic will also determine our foreign policy, our country and government. We can be rational, be realistic, and can be idealistic as well. Earlier the chairman of Muhammadiyah Youth stated that our national interests could be channeled properly, surely the government will run it. But if the Indonesian national interests could not be implemented optimally through the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the government may be looking the other way. Well, if seen what is happening in the OIC from time to time, how is the fight going on there, whether it it productive for Indonesia or not?

Maybe that would explain why from one period to the last period, the OIC has not been maximized for example. Now, if for example, Indonesia will go in there, the level of accessibility to Indonesia will also be tested. Do we have the assets? We will also be tested whether Indonesia is suitable to be a mediator and could play the role of peace builder?

We as a middle power country, our credential will be tested there. Indeed, we could bridge the various aspirations of the OIC forum. Of course we could accept it. If we can speak about the Palestinian problem, then the role of mediator and peace builder will be accepted by many parties, which means that Indonesia will be accepted. But, for example, if it is not acceptable then the other way should soon be taken.

For example, we can maximize the particular organization to become a place that could accommodate our national interests. As well as with ASEAN. Earlier one of the speaker stated has ASEAN become an obstacle to us. What is clear is that ASEAN is a product of our foreign policy. For all foreign policies around the world, always put geographically or prioritize the immediate environment.

So it is rarely stated there are some saying that faraway friends become the main anchor in foreign relations. Usually it will be strengthened by the border state, or neighbors. So, prioritizing ASEAN is not our choice but is a necessity. That the priority of our foreign policy is Southeast Asia, ASEAN. It is important for us. As had been spelled out, if for example the United States proposes something later Russia will reject it, if Pakistan proposes something India will reject it. But if, for example Southeast Asia is voiced by ASEAN, all parties can accept it.

If that's the best way, then ASEAN neutrality becomes important for us for the future. And how are the strategies for the future? In the current geopolitical constellation, then Indonesia's, if it is not careful, given its geographical position, as a buffer zone we will be vanished.

All politics in this world is in the buffer zone. Buffer Zone in the Middle East, Syria is a buffer zone between the west and east to expand its sphere of influence. When its regime determines not what becomes their interest, in any measure of siding there is always a risk, it could win and lose.

The founding fathers of ours did not state the problem of (siding) the west and east, but rowing between two reefs. The founding fathers seemed to have anticipated what would happen in the future. That our position will always be such a battlefield among various interests of many parties. If we do not know what we want, we will run out.

If in a cartoon, attacking from right to left, left to right, top to bottom, we will be busy with that. But if we can clearly address, what we want and for what we are as a nation, the founding fathers of ours said that we are in principle still free and active, that will oversee, and be the interest of our national interests in the field of foreign affairs.

Thus, the most important thing is to see our national interest. So for example, if on defense, history indicates whether to depend on a country is good for us or not, or should we be diversified so that we could truly be independent.

But, before being independent how to move in that direction? Well, there must be the need for technology transfer. We may want to ask for the technology transfer from the west, but if they will not, because of certain requirements that conflict with our principles, then we can not meet the requirements they ask. Similarly, from the east, they will not, due to certain conditions we could not receive. That means not because of the west, nor because of the east, we say, with south korea for example, if the technology transfer given by South Korea that makes our primary weaponry system (Alutsista), someday become us self-reliant, we certainly will not refuse it.

So, for example, if the country sees it from that side, also when we talk about trade economy, sometimes the government can not possibly be freely voice certain things.

Because sometimes the government did not speak the truth or not truth, but the government will look at all aspects of how the country's national interests can be met. So, in the future seeing the global situation, and we will look at Indonesia's free and active foreign policy that is still relevant, and will be, maintained continuously.

And the important thing is to promote the national interest. What is the national interest at this time, that will be pursued by the government. Well, the posture if some debates said whether it was too cautious, too careful then, what is actually seen by the government is what do all the opportunities look like. Why does our president make a visit to Western Europe? Why he should meet with Britain, the Netherlands, Germany? Why did the Dutch prime minister come (to Indonesia) recently? That answers something, we talk on the statistics, the friends engaged in trade can answer that. Why do we have to talk with China? Our statistics also showed. Why sould Jokowi need to visit the US? There is something that also explains it. Likewise, the government of Indonesia with Russia. All has the explanation and the reason.

In the near future with Britain and India. On this stand, we see that our president has run our free and active foreign policy. So there was all outriggers. Because we are also of the view that ASEAN continues to be central to our region, and we expect there will be no one dominant force in Southeast Asia because it is not good for Indonesia. So, the balance is to involve all. Thus, later the names of regional forums such as ASEAN plus, then ASEAN regional forum, east ASEAN summit involving all regional and superpower actors have to keep that balance. Because that's what we believe.

Then, we also play an active role in keeping our region. So that the active efforts made by Indonesia in our foreign policy is intended to ensure stability in our region. Then in accordance with the theme of the roundtable seminar, taking place here, we need to affirm that ASEAN is important, why it is important, because our foreign policy from the beginning until now has principally been like that, free and active. Not because of Western or Eastern bloc but because there is something more important than that. and it has been seen by the Founding Fathers, that there would be one intending to eat us all. So that the founding fathers were convinced that Indonesia was not established for 50 or 71 years.

But we will head for 100 years as stated by Mr Jokowi, even if necessarily like America 200 years. However, our national commitment, the commitment of our foreign policy, has tried to convince that the republic of Indonesia stands not only for 100 years but can be more than 100 years in accordance with our identity. That's all, thank you.

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