Is Indonesia’s international role shrinking?


Ambassador Rizal Sukma gave a talk on Indonesian foreign policy held at the Grand Locarno Room, FCO, on 3 may 2017, at the invitation of the Anglo-Indonesian Society.

He began his speech by saying that there were concerns and criticisms about the shape and direction of Indonesia’s foreign policy and President Jokowi was seen as “lacking in international experience”, “having no interest in foreign affairs”, or “too focus on domestic agenda” despite President Jokowi’s active participation in various key regional and international forums and his firm statement on how Indonesia will not become inward-looking and how Indonesia remains committed to the partnership with the international community to deal with complex issues of global importance.

Ambassador Sukma dismissed false analyses that Indonesia’s international role is shrinking by underlining that a fair assessment of  country’s foreign policy should be based by a collective effort by the entire foreign policy and a complex diplomatic machinery. More importantly, it should be understood as a complex process of transforming words into deeds, where interests and obligation are merged into a set of concrete acts.

He emphasized that the basic principles of Indonesia’s foreign policy will not change. Indonesia’s foreign policy will continue to be guided by the principles of bebas-aktif, by the imperative of serving our national interests, and by the constitutional obligation to contribute to international peace and justice. However, the way Indonesia conducts its foreign policy is changing:

  1. Indonesia is trying to balance past preference for norms-building with a more action-oriented, more realist, interest-driven initiatives in foreign policy. But do not be misunderstood, Indonesia still views norms are important.
  2. Indonesia is trying to find a correct balance between multilateralism and bilateralism in its engagement with the outside world.
  3. Indonesia is trying to conduct a foreign policy that would help achieve Indonesia’s domestic priorities as well – a balanced expression of national interests and international obligation.

Concluding his speech, Ambassador Rizal Sukma underlined that Indonesia is a country with a deep sense of regional entitlement, and a responsible member of the international society. It would be foolish for Indonesia to allow itself to be shrinking and become “foreign policy irrelevance”. Indonesia’s  future and destiny are closely linked to the international society. It is with the international community that Indonesia must work to deliver the promise of prosperity and stability to its people at home.