A new altitude in Indonesian diplomacy

03 April, 2013 | Source: The Jakarta Post

As Garuda-01 flight took off from Tegel International Airport, the Indonesian delegation members on board looked outside their windows to watch Berlin fall behind. Two German Eurofighter escorts approached each wing of the presidential aircraft.

Just the night before, the International Turismo Borse was co-hosted by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Western and eastern Europeans thronged the convention halls, enjoying a musical serenade performed by Indonesian-German violinists and pianist and various Indonesian dances.

Hours earlier, SBY and Merkel, in the Bundeskanzleramt, discussed bilateral cooperation and analyzed the regional and global situations. Both leaders seemed very comfortable discussing various issues having met several times at G20 summits and in Jakarta during Chancellor Merkel’s visit in July 2012.

These small and yet meaningful events indeed reflect much of what Indonesian diplomacy, or total diplomacy, has achieved since the reforms. Back in 1998, the world not only held its breath when watching Indonesia, but also feared it might become a failed state or even disintegrate. Instead, after 15 years of reform and transformation (and plenty of pending issues), Indonesia has certainly remade herself.

With the fourth largest population, a trillion-dollar economy (by purchasing power parity), a model for democracy and moderate Islam, an annual US$60 billion rate of economic growth, and more importantly a foreign policy that promotes stability, prosperity and justice, leaders from many regions are viewing
Indonesia with great interest.

If anything else, it could be seen as “hip” to befriend Indonesia: A good friend of the West, the East, the Muslims and a country cognizant of the need for cultural harmony, environmental sustainability and social inclusiveness. Seeing this recovery and political achievements, then how should the new Indonesia look at international relations?

In response to this, Diplomat-in-Chief and nominated International Statesman of 2013, President SBY delivered on March 8 a lecture aboard Garuda-01 en route to Dubai. The title of his airborne lecture was “Global governance, global power and the dynamic changing world”.

SBY began with a description of the new world order, where the global dynamics have made the G20 the new G7/8. He spoke of the importance of the United Nations’ centrality to global governance, despite many countries calling for greater action, especially by an disunited Security Council to end the Syrian humanitarian tragedy.

He explained about the many global powers, including the G2 (China/US), who are both rivals but need one another. At the same time, regional powers (ASEAN/EAS, EU, Latin America and Africa) also play a key role in maintaining stability and economic growth and preventing disaster.

At the same time, the new global architecture had also enlisted new (non-state) actors, as “game-changers and solidarity makers”. And now more and more silent forces are rising or the “un-led people power” as witnessed in North Africa and the Middle East, followed later by what SBY called “the workforce who are unemployed and looking for justice”.

Through these global and regional dynamisms, SBY wanted Indonesia to be alert, ready and geared up for its new role in international relations. He stated that domestically, it was imperative that Indonesia continued getting stronger economically, democratically, politically and in terms of defense, and a model of harmony between Islam and democracy, while promoting an “Indonesian way” that resists global shocks.

This is the duty of not one government and president, but every generation. Regionally, the country should continue leading in economics, promoting stability and shaping the region. Globally Indonesia is to continue playing an active and positive role, as some analysts predict Indonesia becoming the 10th largest world economy and, hence, a global power.

Consequently, as Indonesia emerges as a regional leader and active global player, the number of summits it has to attend increases, such as ASEAN twice a year, the East Asia Summit, the G20, APEC and now as cochair of the United Nations High-level Panel to formulate the post-2015 global development agenda.

Whether or not we positively accept this new altitude in international relations or not does not matter anymore. The world sees Indonesia in a positive light. World leaders like Obama, Cameron, Merkel, Erdogan, Ferdinand de Kirchner, Abe, Hu and Lee perceive Indonesia as a partner. Indonesia’s influence is spreading to the Americas, Europe, Africa and Central Asia. Almost as if they seek the views of Indonesia on various regional and global issues, if not her blessing.

In fact countries large and small have received the same respect from Indonesia as partners for global
stability, peace and prosperity.

And although these upbeat diplomatic relations are a welcome outcome, global issues like food, energy and water security for the expected 9 billion people in 2045 will still be a race for scarce resources for all countries. Hence, it becomes even more critical for Indonesia to take advantage of this positive momentum, standing at the right time in history to play a global role as Indonesia approaches its centenary.

With income per capita expected to reach $5,000 by 2014 (approaching $10,000 in 2020), Indonesia’s development could benefit not only itself, but also the region and world as she joins the global powers.

But before its diplomacy can further succeed, Indonesia must empower its expected 138 million middle class to face developing-country challenges, namely poverty and inequality, corruption and good-governance. Ultimately, it is important for Indonesia to secure its trajectory in international affairs.

Just as it lifted off after a crisis 15 years ago, its flight plan must be precise as it landing gears get ready.

The writer is assistant special staff to the President for international relations.


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