Indonesian foreign policy in the era of Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has embraced a new perspective – the so-called Natalegawa doctrine. This perspective sees Indonesia in a position of “dynamic equilibrium” in world politics.
There is currently a fragmented distribution of political power, and there are many challenges for inter-governmental cooperation that lie ahead. The foreign minister’s new doctrine is therefore interesting to examine in light of these issues.
The Jakarta Post spoke with Marty on Dec. 29, 2010, and many important points in Indonesian foreign policy nowadays were discussed. First, international politics is understood in the new doctrine as a state of “dynamic equilibrium” and “cold peace”. The polarities in post-Cold War international politics have shifted, opening up opportunities for strategic cooperation. Therefore, there are many economic and political changes within international politics that can no longer be understood as unipolar.
The dynamic equilibrium concept indicates that there are more possibilities for nations to become new powers in international relations. For Indonesia, this idea allows us to improve our economic and political strength and begin an era of cooperation among the Global South.
Second, dynamic equilibrium is a position of equality among countries in the Global South to cooperate peacefully without having to depend on any forms of hegemony in international politics. As a consequence, Indonesian foreign policy must harness the potential power of developing countries without denying the existence of powers in the “north”. This was reflected in the directions Indonesia’s foreign policy have taken, as formulated by Marty at the beginning of his term.
Third, this doctrine also views the world through the experience of the Cold War and current “cold peace”. Residual forces from the Cold War still exist, but we cannot deny that new forces have arisen in its aftermath. For example, China and India dominate Asian markets and have become emerging forces in regional — and even international — economies. Relations between these forces are not hostile like in the Cold War era, but more competitive, dynamic and non-political.
Fourth, the paradigm of international security nowadays has also shifted in line with the pluralism of the actors. Thus, opportunities for cooperation are wide open. Marty has responded to this situation by increasing economic cooperation within ASEAN member countries and in Asia and the Pacific.
But, the “Natalegawa Doctrine” is not free of criticism. Indonesian foreign policy perspectives lead to a critical question: How can Indonesia compete among the new powers in this post-Cold War era?
The inclusion of Indonesia in the G20, an exclusive group of developed countries, is an achievement of its own. But, this exclusive position must take into account public interests. It is not only about our national interests and acceptance in the international arena, but also in the domestic sphere. The government must also balance its foreign policy with the interests of the wider community.
The government’s vow of all-out diplomacy by involving all stakeholders has come under criticism. But, the realization of this promise is important to make sure that the public pays attention to diplomatic practices and propaganda.
In addition, criticism has also been directed at the government’s style of dealing with international problems. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono insists on adhering to the tenet “zero enemies, a million friends” when responding, for example, to the border conflict with Malaysia. Some have considered this pragmatic approach unclear.
The “Yudhoyono doctrine” is quite ambiguous. Dynamic equilibrium is established through the strengthening of regional cooperation. It means that foreign policy decision-making emphasizes regionalism — especially in ASEAN. It implies that we should make friends in strategic positions, not with all countries. The criticism of this policy is that it is too fixated on the imagery and spirit of “zero enemies, a million friends”. It is also unclear what Indonesia’s strategic position is at the regional level.
It would be extremely premature to critique the foreign minister’s new foreign policy doctrine. However, constructive criticism should be allowed and public oversight needs to be strengthened in order to match the government’s “all-out diplomacy”. It would be better if the public could observe and control the execution of diplomacy and foreign policy practice, and criticize together if there are any mistakes.
Hopefully, the Natalegawa doctrine can help to offer a new way for Indonesia to achieve power in international politics.
Ahmad Rizky Mardhatillah Umar, The writer works at the Institute of International Studies at Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta.
Opini The Jakarta Post 7 Januari 2011