Indonesia Today and Its Foreign Policy





Presentation by
H.E. Sunten Z. Manurung
Ambassador of The Republic of Indonesia
on the lecture at Instituto del Servicio Exterior de la Nacion (ISEN), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Argentine Republic
Buenos Aires, August 14th 2009

Excellency Ambassador Horacio Adolfo Basabe, Director de Instituto del Servicio Exterior de la Nacion (ISEN)

Participants of the Diplomatic training,

It is in an honour for me to be here, in front of the future diplomats of Argentina and also some participants of other countries because it is an important occasion and opportunity to introduce Indonesia and to share an idea to the young diplomats in this training regarding Indonesia and it’s foreign policy.

For that reasons allow me to express my gratitude and thanks to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Argentine Republic especially my colleague, Ambassador Basabe, for giving me this opportunity.

Ladies and gentlemen,
Indonesia is a country blessed with more that 17.000 beautiful islands, located between Asia and Australia and between Pacific and Indian Oceans. Stretches for more than 5000 km, which if we lay above the map of Europe is extended from Moscow to London. In terms of land area, Indonesia is the world’s 23rd largest country with 1.904.569 square km  . Divided into thousands of islands, Indonesian population is highly diverse in terms of ethnics, culture, languages and customs. These facts have placed Indonesia as the second most diverse country in the world in term of local ethnic languages, with more than 300 ethnics and 726 languages .

For three and a half centuries, the archipelago was colonized by Europeans so that Western civilizations can be seen in education system, clothes, government system and other aspects of life. Indonesia gained its independence on 17 August 1945 after three and a half centuries of Dutch occupation and three and a half years of Japanese occupation.

Although, it is known as the country with the biggest moslem population in the world, with around 80% of more than 229 millions population  profess Islam, Indonesia is not an Islamic country. It is a democratic republic that put the same respect to all religions. At the same time Indonesia also prides itself as the third biggest democracy in the world after India and the United States of America. Therefore, Indonesia is a living proof that democracy and Islam co-exists in harmony.

The practice of democracy in Indonesia, based on national ideology Pancasila and constitution 1945, can be seen among others during recent legislative election on April 9, 2009 and presidential election on July 8, 2009. This is the second time Indonesian people directly elected the President and Vice President -after the 2004 Presidential Election. In the 2009 election, 176 million voters went to the pools in free and fair elections, which was witnessed by 54 international observers from 26 countries. Incumbent President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, with Vice President, Budiono, won the election with about 60% votes and will be inaugurated on October 2009 with their new cabinet.

Ten years ago, back in 1999, Indonesia held its first democratic elections amid political crisis following the 1998 financial and economic crisis. International observers were skeptical about the elections and even the future of the Republic of Indonesia. Some even predicted “dooms-day scenario” for Indonesia, as separatist rebellions and sectarian conflicts still existed in some parts of the country. Some said democratization would lead to disintegration simply because Indonesia was too big and too diverse. Others foretold Indonesia becoming a messy or failed state, and could split apart and dissolve violently in the way the former Yugoslavia did over previous decade.

Indonesia bore the brunt of the Asian crisis of 1998, as it suffered a negative growth of 13,5 percent and widespread turmoil. It transformed from authoritarian regime to a fully democratic system through Reformasi Movement. Since then, Indonesia is changing not only on national level, but also at provincial and district level where people can choose their own leaders in fair, transparent and democratic election.

This political development has also triggered positive outcome in human rights, and socio-cultural development. According to International Institute for Management Development (IMD)-World Competitiveness Center, based on reviews on major indicators i.e. economic performance, business efficiency, government efficiency and infrastructure, Indonesia has the most spectacular movement in 2009 index, rising from 51st place in 2008 to 42nd among 57 countries . Indonesian President, Mr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was also selected as one of the world’s most influential people by Time Magazine .

The political stability achieved through a strong democracy in the last ten years has helped Indonesia to develop its economy. During the last few years, Indonesian economy has steadily grown more than 5% every year. In 2007, Indonesia achieved 6,3% growth and with GDP US$ 387,186 billions. In 2008, despite the global crisis, Indonesia still able to perform a positive growth of 6,1% with GDP US$ 485,686 billions.

Indonesian GDP in 2008 shows how diverse Indonesian potencies in economy. While manufacturing industry composes for 27,9% of the GDP, agriculture, livestock, forestry and fishery  come in second with 14,4% and followed by trade, hotel and restaurant with 14%.

The dynamic nature of Indonesian economy is evidently shown in the significant growth in export import activities. Indonesian export in 2008 grows 19,86% from the previous year amounted at US$  136,76 billions and import grows 73,1%  amounted at  US$ 128,79 billions.

In 2009, Indonesia is expected to grow strongly, especially after the general election proved to be carried out successfully. In fact, according to IMF, Indonesian economy’s resilience, supported by election-related spending, was also evident of the stronger growth than expected in Q1 of 2009, with 4,5%, made it one of the fastest growing economies among the G-20 member countries, while inflation is on a declining trend .

Although in the second quarter of 2009 economy grew at slower pace with 4%, Indonesia remained among the world’s best-performing economies in global standards. Gross Domestic Product still grew to Rp 1,365.5 trillion ($136 billion) in this period. These data placed Indonesia among the top three countries that grew positively in Asia after China (7,9%) and India (est. 5,5%).

Indonesian economic growth is strongly supported by local consumption as well as export of Indonesian high quality products. For commodity products, Indonesia has some main products such as oil and gas, cocoa, coffee, palm oil, rubber and rubber products. As has been shown in Indonesian GDP composition, Indonesia is also quite strong in its manufactured products, such as textile, automotive products, footwear, furniture and electronics.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Both politic and economic stability give Indonesia decent position in the world of diplomacy. Indonesia’s foreign policy is shaped by various factors such as the nation’s history, its geographic conditions, its demography, and its security and national interest. These factors prompted Indonesia to adopt a foreign policy that is independent, in which Indonesia alone will decide and determine its own position on world issues without external pressures or influence, and active, as Indonesia has been committed to participating in constructive efforts that help build and maintain a just and peaceful world since 1948.

Indonesia under the President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has maintained a new interpretation of independent and active foreign policy for the 21st century. In this globalization and information era, Indonesia’s foreign policy is likened with “navigating a turbulent ocean”, associating itself with directions which Indonesia could steer its way in the turbulent environment caused by the forces of globalization.

Following such tenet, Indonesia’s foreign policy would be even more geared towards a constructive mindset, to be able to respond to complex foreign policy issues and to turn adversaries into friends, friends into partners. Indeed, Indonesia have implemented such approach with the formation of strategic partnerships in the new Asia-Africa framework of cooperation and in bilateral framework with Indonesia and China. It would be focused on building connectivity, to engage in healthy and active relations with the wider world, particularly with neighboring countries, major and emerging powers, key countries in other regions, international institutions, and non-state actors. Indonesia’s strategic posture shall be aimed always at strengthening regional and international peace and stability, never at threatening its neighbors.

With regard to the policy of non-alignment, while Indonesia maintains its policy of not entering into military alliances and allowing foreign military bases in its territory, Indonesia would still pursue military cooperation with other countries to build its capacity through such means as joint military exercises or sharing of information, particularly to fight the war on terrorism.

Not the least important, Indonesia’s independent and active foreign policy in the 21st century would focus on projecting an international identity for Indonesia, expectedly taking on constructive roles in the international community “as a peacemaker and a bridge-builder” for relations among developing countries, as well as between developing and developed countries.

Indonesia is working to reach its national objectives and overcome domestic and international challenges, making efforts at:

1. Restoring Indonesia’s international image;
2. Helping boost the economy and public welfare;
3. Helping strengthen national unity, stability and integrity, and preserve the nation’s sovereignty; and
4. Developing bilateral relations, particularly with countries that can support Indonesia’s trade and investment and economic recovery; as well as promote international cooperation that helps build and maintain world peace.

To ensure that these goals are within reach, the Department of Foreign Affairs puts emphasis on diplomatic cooperation with countries that are within a series of concentric circles, as follows:

II. ASEAN +3, East Asia Summit (EAS)
III. Pacific Countries, India and the wider range of Asia Pacific bi-regional frameworks
IV. Developing Countries, NAM, OIC, Group of 77, Group of 15
V. Global level 
The first of such concentric circles, which Indonesia considers a major pillar of its foreign policy, is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  The second concentric circle is the ASEAN + 3 (the three being Japan, China and South Korea). Beyond that, Indonesia puts a premium on its relations with the United States and the European Union, both of which are major economic partners of Indonesia.

National interests are eternal in nature, yet they are dependent to other countries’ interests. Differences in interest may lead to potential conflict among countries, but the ability to bridge over the differences and find a common basic ground of interests will increase our leverage in bargaining power.

Therefore, the conduct of foreign policy must emphasize and put forward a dialogue process and mutually beneficial cooperation, based on the principles of equality and mutual understanding among nations. This is in line with the spirit of paragraph IV (four) of the 1945 Constitution’s Preamble, which clearly obliges the nation to continuously make efforts in creating a peaceful, prosperous and just world order that upholds the values of genuine amity and cooperation among countries.

The basic strategic approach in the conduct of Indonesia’s foreign policy emphasizes the approach of concentric circles. This strategy is practiced by taking into account the geographical closeness and sphere of influence of the external environment toward Indonesia. Indonesia believes that the closest surroundings will create a relatively greater impact to every aspects of domestic situation in Indonesia. This shows that both domestic and external situations have impacts on the practice of Indonesia’s Foreign Policy.

The implementation of the independent and active foreign policy was showed among others on the facts that Indonesia was one of the founding members of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

In 2007-2008, Indonesia was  non-permanent member of the Security Council. Indonesia is also an active member of APEC, FEALAC, WTO, and G-20. Considered as one of the growing economies, Indonesia was invited on G8 Summit plus as one of the Major Economies Forum.

Concerning peace and security, since 1957 Indonesia has been continuously participating in United Nation Peace Keeping Force by sending Garuda Contingent to Egypt, Congo, Cambodia, Bosnia, and Lebanon. Indonesia also became mediator on  negotiation between the government of Philippine and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). 

In addition, Indonesia also has taken parts in the meetings and conferences on numerous issues of the world problems.  As a country with biggest population of Moslem, Indonesia participates actively in various interfaith dialogue to presents the modern and inclusive Islam. In 2006, Indonesia and Norway initiated Global Inter Media Dialogue (GIMD), a forum for leading media actors from different continents, countries and cultures to discuss ways and means of promoting freedom of expression and greater tolerance.

In compliance with the 1945 Constitution, Indonesia also gives importance to working with like-minded developing countries. That is why Indonesia is deeply involved with the Non-aligned Movement (NAM), the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Group of 77 (G -77) and the Group of 15 (G-15).

It is in this context that Indonesia remains supportive of the struggle of the people of Palestine toward the establishment of an independent Palestinian State within their own homeland. In the framework of New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAASP) capacity building for Palestine, Indonesia participated through various training in business management for small and medium enterprises, trade and public work, woman empowerment, education, agriculture and Mechanical Engineering drafting and also diplomatic training.

In the area of democracy, Presiden Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono initiated Bali Democracy Forum, aiming at the promotion of regional and international cooperation in the field of democracy and political development amongst countries in Asia. This is not an exclusive forum among democracies, but an inclusive and open forum for countries of Asia to share their experiences and best practices in fostering democracy.

Indonesia also contributes in climate change issues and became the host country for United Nation for Climate Change Conference in 2007 which produced Bali Road Map (also known as the Bali Action Plan) as a two-year process to finalizing a binding agreement in 2009 in Copenhagen, Denmark. 

The other important issue of Indonesia’s foreign policy is protection of  Indonesian Citizen and Indonesian Institution. In this context, Indonesian embassies all over the world have to provide shelter and services at its best for all the Indonesian people abroad. This strong commitments includes one day service for all documents processing such as passport, and visa for foreigners .
My fellow students of diplomatik course,

Nowadays, diplomacy is not a domain of government and diplomats anymore. Therefore, a synergy between government agents and society in conducting diplomacy is an important element of the total diplomacy. Moreover, in the globalization era, inter-relations between internasional and domestic (intermestic) element of international relations could not be avoided. The domestic and international factors of foreign policy is close ever since. It has implication to the changing issues in internasional relations which used to be predominated by state to state relations shifting to the non-traditional issues such as human security (Avian influenza, HIV/AIDS), good governance, poverty alleviation and democratization have dominated the world affairs.

Therefore in latest few years, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia has been working hard on the public diplomacy to improve and to raise the understanding of the public, which is seen as the share holder of Indonesian diplomacy, on international issues. These concepts successfully increased the participation of the civil society throughout various activities which in turn contributes as the actor of second track of diplomacy. They come from various background e.g. scholars, non governmental  organization activists, students, religious leaders, public figures, and mass media.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Indonesia’s roles in various international forum and issues are highly supported by good and fruitful bilateral relation that it has with almost all countries in the world through 118 embassies, permanent missions  and consulates.

The Embassy of Indonesia in Argentina was established after the opening of diplomatic relation on 1956. In politic, friendship between the two countries is getting stronger with visits of high ranking officials. In 21-26 Mei 1959, first President of Indonesia, Soekarno, visited Argentina and this visit is still in the memories of Argentine people until today.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, Dr. Hassan Wirajuda came to Argentina in August 2007 and were followed by other officials not only on executive level but also legislative members.

The cooperation between two countries also reached several areas through the signature of some agreements and memorandum of understanding. The recent one is the MoU in the Field of Sports which was signed in Buenos Aires during the visit of Vice Minister for American and European Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 7th, 2009.

Argentina, as one of the main countries in Latin America, becomes more and more important for Indonesia especially in terms of trade, investment, energy and technical cooperation. Commercial cooperation between Indonesia and Argentina has increased from time to time. Indonesian export to Argentina in 2008 reached 232.8 millions US dollar, which was the highest Indonesian export to Argentina since 2004. Meanwhile Argentine export to Indonesia was double that numbers. 

2004 107.41 248.36 -140.95 355.77 
2005 144.38 370.34 -225.96 514.73 44.68%
2006 185.33 316.87 -131.54 502.21 -2.43%
2007 214.20 408.67 -194.46 622.87 24.03%
2008 232.82 514.69 -281.87 747.51 20.01%
Source: Centre for International Economy (CEI) MRE Argentina and Mercosur Online

There are still many potencies and economic opportunities to be explored in both countries. Indonesia has strong manufacture industries, such as electronic, automotive component, medical instruments, and chemical products, as well as agricultural products, among others are coffee, cocoa, palm oil, and spices. On the other hand, Argentina also has several products needed by Indonesia, including dairy products, soybean, and meat.

My fellow  future diplomats,

The world of diplomacy nowadays is more and more diverse and globalization makes the world interconnected. Therefore, one of the important jobs of diplomacy is to promote people to people contact through social and cultural activities. In that area, every year the government of Indonesia offers scholarship for students all over the world, including from Argentina to study Indonesian culture and language for a year in Indonesia.
The Embassy also continuously introduces traditional and unique culture of Indonesia to the public of Argentina through some cooperation with universities and organizations in Argentina. Every year, the embassy organizes cultural shows that are performed not only by Indonesian people but also some of Argentineans. This proves that despite the long distance between Indonesia and Argentina, the culture can be accepted by the public of Argentina.

Ladies and gentleman,

Finally, I will end my presentation with saying that there are still many challenges and opportunities for the cooperation between Indonesia and Argentina. Therefore, I would like to share my optimism that in the future cooperation between Indonesia and Argentina will be enhanced through our hard works to open and facilitate contact between our people.

Last but not least, I wish you all success in this course 

Thank you.