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An open letter to President Jokowi on reactualizing Indonesia's free and active foreign policy

Honorable President Joko Widodo

We from the Global Future Institute (GFI) and students of the Faculty of International Relations of the National University who joined the so-called Vox Muda, hoped that Mr. President and all ranks of the cabinet are fit and healthy and always in the shadow of God Almighty.

Dear Mr. President

On Monday, December 5, we (GFI and Vox Muda), held a roundtable seminar with the format Focus Group Discussion taking up the theme: "Forming the strategies of balance of power in the context of reactualizing Indonesia's free and active foreign policy." As we expected as the seminar's Steering Committee, some ministries' representatives engaged in foreign policy such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Trade and the Ministry of Defence, accepted the seminar. Besides, various elements of society such as the Religious Social Organizations and student organizations such as the Central Board of Muhammadiyah Youth and the Presidium of the Indonesian National Student Movement (GMNI). Present also at the occasion giving ideas and advice were two political economy and international relations researchers and a former senior diplomat of the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

Dear Mr. President

Both the speakers and participants agreed that Indonesia's free and foreign policy has not only remained relevant in today's era, but should also be continued. Even as we expected as the steering committee, there must be efforts of reactualizing free and active foreign policy in accordance with the latest global trends and challenges of the times that were certainly different from previous decades.

On this stand, there is a strong call voiced by several speakers and participants in the discussion in order that Indonesia should not only further enhance its active role in various international and multilateral forums, but also has to appear as a New Force and Balancing Power of the World amid the increasing global competition between the United States versus the People's Republic of China, especially in the Asia Pacific region.

The speakers and participants called for the importance of the government and foreign policy stakeholders to reactualize  fFree and active foreign policy on the basis of two strategic considerations. First, since the New Order era during the reign of Suharto and the reform era, Indonesia's foreign policy has remained too inclined to rely on the United States, Western Europe, besides Japan and the People's Republic of China in economic and trade cooperation as well as in defense.

In fact there was one speaker of the seminar specifically highlighting the Indonesia's international defense cooperation, boldly concluded that Indonesia still did not dare to come out of the orbit of influence of "Western Hemisphere." As could be seen from its tendency to rely on the purchase of military equipment from South Korea, even though we all knew, Korea South has remained in the orbit of influence of the US and Western European bloc.

Second, Indonesia needs to reactualize its free and active foreign policy because since the last few years, there has been a global trend that significantly requires the existence of a point of view and a new mindset in formulating and defining our foreign policy. That there has been a global trend shift in terms of global geopolitical centers from the Atlantic to the Asia Pacific region. All this could be seen from the emergence of three new powers that could potentially become a new global balance of power, particularly in the Asia Pacific region, namely India, China and Russia.

Dear Mr. President

Global trends that we described earlier, were clear following the US-ASEAN Summit held in California, US, some time ago in which Mr President himself was pleased to be present in this important event. As information we have obtained following the end of the US-ASEAN Summit in California, there was likely a considerable pressure from Washington and within our own country, so that Indonesia and ASEAN should be more oriented to the US and EU bloc compared to China, Russia and India. So that there was a strong pressure to the government of Indonesia in order that ASEAN Dialogue Partnership with China, Russia and India, is reduced in intensity for only two years, or even if possible, eliminated altogether.

Inevitably this indicates how Americans put great concern with the emergence of the three countries (India-China-Russia) in the constellation in Asia-Pacific and South-East Asia in particular, so that the US felt the need to launch diplomatic maneuvering to neutralize the trend towards the establishment of ASEAN strategic alliances, which of course including Indonesia as the largest country in ASEAN and East Asia, with the three countries that are predicted to be a global alternative force outside the orbit of the US and EU.

For that reason, some speakers and participants urged the forum to review the Indonesia's foreign policy direction within the last 50 years or more that is inclined to rely on the US, EU and Japan. Although in recent years, Indonesia has started to explore various cooperation with China.

Two strategic considerations associated with the need for Indonesia to reactualize its free and active foreign policy, leading to some strategic ideas in the forum.

First, to make a more solid international cooperation with India, China and Russia, then in actualizing the principles of free and active foreign policy must first be based on balancing strategies together with countries having the same vision with Indonesia, as once spearheaded by Indonesia during the administration of President Sukarno, through the idea of ​​the formation of the Bandung's Asian-African Conference in 1955 and the Belgrade's Non-Aligned Movement in 1961.

So on the basis of the scheme, Indonesia together with the countries that have the same vision will be able to build strategic and solid alliances with the three new powers of Asia Pacific (India, China and Russia) on the basis of the principle of equality and mutual benefit. So it is not simply moving from the satellite countries of the United States and Western Europe into a third satellite of the new powers. But together with the three new powers of Asia-Pacific has Indonesia could become an alternative force as well as balance of power of the World, in the midst of an increasingly sharpening global competition between the US and China in Asia Pacific.

Moreover, some speakers and participants also warned that although the United States and China had different intentions, but both countries were equally imperialistic and ambitious to become the single ruler of the international world. So we have to look at the US and China as the countries potentially posing threats to the Indonesia's national interests.

Dear Mr. President

For Indonesia, which in April 1955 initiating the formation of nations solidarity in Asia and Africa through the implementation of the Asia-Africa Conference in Bandung, as well as the Non-Aligned Movement in Belgrade in 1961, it is time for the country to reactualize the conception of Indonesia's free and active foreign policy. For to initiate the preparation of strategies of balance of power particularly in Southeast Asia following the shifting of global competition between superpowers in Southeast Asia, the Indonesian foreign policy stakeholders must be inspired by the Ten Principles (Dasasila) of Bandung in 1955 and the commitment of the Non-Aligned Movement in 1961.

Free and active Foreign policy referred to in this framework is free. In the sense that Indonesia does not side with certain forces that are basically incompatible with the national identity as reflected in the Pancasila. Active means that in conducting its foreign policy, Indonesia is not passive-reactive related to international events, but is active in explaining the global and national challenges that we face today. It could also be defined: "being free in politics to define and express themselves, to each international problem in accordance with their respective values ​​without a priori siding with a certain bloc.

Free could also be interpreted in the sense not bound by any ideology or by a foreign country or by political bloc of certain countries or super power. Active means that giving realistic contribution vigorously in developing the freedom of friendship and international cooperation with respect for the sovereignty of other countries.

In connection with the framework and ideas mentioned above, to create a conducive situation towards the emergence of Indonesia as a new force pioneering and powering the re-establishment of balancing power of the World amid today's global conflict, then several speakers and participants called for the need of revitalizing the forum of Association of Southeast Asian nations (ASEAN) and the Islamic countries which are members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Of course, with one condition, that Indonesia should be assured by means of diplomatic channels, so that ASEAN and OIC will welcome to build a new perspective and a renewed commitment on the basis of the idea to build the strategies of balance of power animated and inspired by the spirit of so-called Dasa Sila Bandung 1955 and Non-Aligned Movement 1961.

And to have a solid and concrete support on an international scale, is interesting to consider the ideas of former Deputy Ambassador of Indonesia to Russia, Mr. Nurrachman Oerip. According to him, to build global balancing strategies led by Indonesia, it is time to consider a more strategic and solid cooperation with Russia. The Mr. Oerip's considerations seemed quite rational and reasonable. First, the fact that Russia is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council having veto power in the UN.

Second, in Russia, there are about 20 million Muslims, that of course are the social capital that could not be ignored  and may be very effective for initiating The We Feeling among developing countries, including Indonesia, for most of the developing countries in Asia and Africa and the Middle East, are also the most populous Muslim countries.

Therefore, Mr. President could pay attention and explore the points and recommendations of the GFI-held seminar on December 5, and it seems urgent to establish working groups with three basic tasks:

1.    Assessing and reviewing the implementation of the principle of Indonesia's free-active foreign policy over the last 50 years relying more on the United States and Western Europe in the fields of economic and political security, social-cultural and defense-security.
2.    Exploring and deepening in more detail the various new possibilities in building Indonesia's strategic alliance with India-Russia-China in some strategic sectors such as political-security, economic-trade, and social-cultural.
3.    Examining and exploring a format strategic partnership between Indonesia and Russia, both government to government and people to people diplomacy. Particularly in the field of science and technology, military, maritime, energy, education and mass media.

Dear Mr. President, here is a bit of information and some ideas that we could take in through a rouldtable seminar of experts that we held on Monday, December 5th in Jakarta.

Hopefully Mr. President is pleased to learn more about some strategic points and recommendations of the GFI seminar as we have already published also to the community through a variety of means of information and mass media.

That is all and thank you.


Jakarta, December 12, 2016.


GFI Executive Director

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