Strategic Imperatives to Raise Indonesia’s Geopolitical Profile
By: Fakhridho SBP Susilo and Kris Wijoyo Soepandji
Contemporary developments in the world of geopolitics have been shaped by, among others, two powerful forces.Firstly, the rise of economically successful illiberal democratic Russia and soft-authoritarian China, with their muscle flexing in Eastern Europe, the Middle East as well as the South China Sea respectively, has challengedprevailing global narratives centered on the primacy of liberal democratic ideals.
In offering global values that directly compete with the liberal democratic world order, China even actively poses as a champion of “Asian values” centered on the premises of state responsibility, social stability, trade, and growth. As the world’s economic center of gravity shifts to the East, these values could replace US-driven “Western” values, as economist Danny Quah maintains.
As it happens, distrust in the West is also increasing toward international open-access order. A survey in 2016 by The Economist and YouGov demonstrates that less than half of respondents in America, Britain and France reject globalization as a “force for good” and generally abhor immigration. Trump’s victory in the US; the “Brexit” and the unprecedented popularity of neo-nationalist parties across Europe further suggest how many in the West are turning their back on globalism.
Another yet potent geopolitical game changer in the 21stcentury is the advent of a “network society”, as Manuel Castells argues, in which global financial and multimedia networks become ever more interlinked with other major networks of politics, cultural production, defense and security, even global crime. These networks hold extraordinary power in shaping state capacity as they cooperate and compete with each other to set rules and norms accommodating their interests and values.
Networks of multimedia and politics have been attributed as the primary facilitator of the “Arab Spring” that left much of the Middle East and North Africa in political turmoil.Moreover, researchers including Andrew Foxallcitehow these networks have aided “soft power” offensives for newly emerging powers such as Russia, whose state-backed media channels successfully penetrate Western audiences and challenge Western-dominated information outlets.
What implications do all these developments hold for Indonesia? Located in the Asia Pacific, as early as 1940s Indonesia was dubbed das totenkreuz (“the death cross”) to symbolize the ever-present dangers– and opportunities — in the area where numerous geopolitical interests meet and clash, as A.R. Soehoedonce argued. Thus Indonesia cannot stand idle while global powers and interests maneuver around us.
One strategic imperative for Indonesia is to strengthen resilience by institutionalizing geopolitical awareness among policymakers and the public. In fact, mastery of geopolitical knowledgeand history is crucial to understand and set the broader political narratives of postmodern conflicts as recent work by Gao Hongwei dan Tao Chun suggests.
A recent important initiative was the ‘scenario-planning’ carried out by the National Resilience Institute (Lembaga Ketahanan Nasional) in 2016 to anticipate future global and domestic strategic trends facing the country. Among the firststo be developed by an Indonesian state agency, the effort resulted in four scenarios reflecting four driving forces of socio-politics and culture; economy; geopolitics; and the environment that will shape Indonesia’s future.
These scenarios provide invaluable resources for long-term policy-making process in Indonesia and to instill a sense of geopolitical vigilance among policymakers and the public. Such best practice needs to be institutionalized in Indonesia’s governance in the way Singapore has, according to Peter Ho, successfully instituted scenario-planning to anticipate future trends and complexities.
Secondly, Indonesia needs to go beyond traditional exercising of power in international venues. As Joseph Nye famously reminded us, we need to exploit more of our “soft power”. Indonesia’s key role in establishing and leading the joint initiatives on sustainable management of marine resources in the Pacific under the Coral Triangle Initiatives on Coral Reefs, Fisheries, and Food Security (CTI-CFF) is one good example. It provides a venue for Indonesia to influence and shape the attitudes of member states whose diplomatic interests sometimes contrast Indonesia’s such as that of Solomon Islands, regarding the issue of Papua.
Beyond campaigning on democracy, moderate Islam, and activism in multilateral forums, we need more promotion of our food, films and other cultural products. Despite many private efforts, what is still lacking is innovative and concerted efforts among state agencies and private actors to effectively use these instruments to project our influence. Harnessing Indonesia’s soft power potential should thus be the next national priority.
Thirdly, we need systematic efforts to make Indonesia relevant with the global networks of knowledge, capital, and cultural production – with our diaspora as a catalyst. Let’s learn from India on how the nation engages its diaspora through its high-level committee that specifically deals with their worldwide diaspora communities, or from China’s formal and informal strategies to engage its 50-odd million diaspora that is said to have helped facilitate the country’s meteoric rise.
With an appropriate engagement strategy Indonesia’s diaspora could play active roles beyond, as they lament, merely being expected to send money home. As members of our diaspora have argued in recent diaspora conferences, they could better connect Indonesia with opportunities in science, industry, business, and culture.
Apart from the Foreign Ministry, engaging the diaspora of around 8 million nationals and foreign nationals requires synergic efforts with private players and other public agencies domestically to translate opportunities into concrete policies.
Fakhridho SBP Susilo is a PhD candidate at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University. Kris Wijoyo Soepandji is a junior lecturer at the Faculty of Law, Universitas Indonesia, who obtained his Master in Public Policy from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. His most recent book is Ilmu Negara Perspektif Geopolitik Masa Kini. Both were involved in the “Indonesia 2045” scenario planning hosted by the National Resilience Institute (Lemhannas) 2013-2016.
Berita ini telah dimuat di The Jakarta Post (4 Januari 2018)