“Through such an independent and active foreign policy, Indonesia has been successfully pursuing its national interests as enshrined in its Constitution of 1945, achieving a prosperous, democratic and just nation, whilst at the same time, playing an active role in maintaining world peace and order.”
GDL: What are main aspects of the foreign policy of Indonesia?
FA: There are two main aspects of Indonesia’s Foreign Policy: first and foremost are the independent and active principles, which have become the very foundation of Indonesia’s Foreign Policy since the country proclaimed its independence on August 17th 1945. Indonesia’s First Vice President and one of Indonesia’s Founding Fathers, Dr. Mohammad Hatta, first coined these principles in 1948.
In responding to the question of where Indonesia’s position vis-à-vis the geopolitical rivalry between the Western Bloc on the one side and the Communist Bloc on the other side during the Cold War Era, Mohammad Hatta contextualised further Indonesia’s independent and active principles for Foreign Policy in his article, which appeared in the Foreign Policy Magazine in April 1953 entitled ‘Indonesia’s Foreign Policy’.
GDL: What does it mean by independent and active foreign policy?
FA: Let me quote what Mohammad Hatta had said, “Indonesia plays no favourites between the two opposed blocs (the Western Bloc on the one side and the Communist Bloc on the other side) and follows its own path through the various international problems. It terms this policy ‘independent’, and further characterises it by describing it as independent and ‘active’.”
By active it means “the effort to work energetically for the preservation of peace and the relaxation of tension generated by the two blocs, through endeavours supported if possible by the majority of the members of the United Nations.”
It is within this context that the second part of our Foreign Policy comes into play. Indonesia is trying to put the underlying principles into practice across all the spectrum and time. Through such an independent and active foreign policy, Indonesia has been successfully pursuing its national interests as enshrined in its Constitution of 1945, achieving a prosperous, democratic and just nation, whilst at the same time, playing an active role in maintaining world peace and order.
Since we gained our independence, we have played an active role in helping countries in the Asia and African region to gain their independence by, for instance, organising the Asia-African Conference in 1955. In 1961, Indonesia became one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) to help developing countries alleviate colonialism and imperialism in all their forms and manifestations.
Our active involvement in maintaining world peace and order has been further demonstrated within our immediate region when we established ASEAN in August 1967. Now, ASEAN has become the cornerstone of our foreign policy and has developed further with the creation of an ASEAN community in 2015 through our leadership role. Within the UN, since the 1950s we have sent our troops under the UN Peace Keeping mission. So far, Indonesia is the eighth biggest contributor of peacekeeping troops under the UN Peace Keeping Mission with 2,694 personnel in nine missions.
“Indonesia is currently the 16th biggest economy in the world and will potentially reach the 7th biggest economy by 2030. As the largest archipelagic country, shipping plays a pivotal role. Greece is one of the most important countries in terms of the shipping industry and is located in a very strategic location in Europe. Thus, the bilateral economy between Indonesia and Greece has a great potential to grow in these two areas: shipping and trade.”
GDL: Over the last decade, Indonesia’s fiscal policy has positively contributed to the country’s growth through macroeconomic stability. What are the current economic targets and what steps are you taking to foster inclusive growth?
FA: The economic target for 2018 is an economic growth of 5.4% and inflation rate of 3.5%. Since September 2015 until June 2017, the Government had implemented 15 economic policy packages, aimed at harmonising national regulations, simplifying bureaucratic processes and strengthening law enforceability. As of January 2018, the Government has successfully deregulated 219 out of 223 regulations (97%).
In order to boost Indonesian industry, the Ministry of Finance issued a new Tax Holiday Policy in April 2018. To improve the investment climate, Indonesia has launched several programmes such as Online Single Submission System, 3-hour Investment Licensing Service and Direct Construction Permit; developed 52 Bonded Logistic Centres to support various national industries; and revised the negative investment list.
GDL: What is the pace of negotiations of the EU-Indonesia trade and investment relations?
FA: The 5th round of Indonesia-EU-CEPA discussions is expected to be held in July 2018. Overall both parties have discussed 15 specific issues, with several working groups discussing the issues of exchange of request and offer through video conference and intersession.
GDL: During the past few years we have witnessed an initiation of countermeasures by several Southeast Asian States as a response to protect their own interests in the greater sea region. What is your Government’s stance?
FA: As the world’s largest archipelagic state, Indonesia has an interest in upholding International Law, including the sanctity of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Indonesia is strategically located between two oceans and one of the busiest passages in the world, the Malaka Strait, which connects the East Asia region to the rest of the world. The Indonesian archipelago is closely related to the disputed area, South China Sea. China’s claim of nine-dash line has been challenged and counterclaimed by countries and entities in this area.
As a state party to UNCLOS, Indonesia’s position is very clear. We abide by International Law, in particular the Law of the Sea as enshrined in the UNCLOS.
With regard to the territorial claim in the South China Sea area, Indonesia is not a claimant country. In order to build mutual trust upon the disputed parties and countries in the area, Indonesia has hosted an annual South China Sea workshop since 1990. This workshop is aimed at promoting unofficial dialogue and problem-solving activities to building relationships and encouraging new thinking that can inform the official process. The 27th South China Sea Workshop indecently, was attended by participants from Brunei Darussalam, China, the Philippines, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and Taiwan.
GDL: Does Indonesia have any aspirations to become a global maritime power?
FA: One of the main priorities of the current Indonesian President Joko Widodo since he came into power in 2014 is Indonesia’s vision as a Global Maritime Fulcrum. This vision has been formalised via the Indonesian Law Number 32 of 2014 on Ocean Affairs, Presidential Regulation Number 2 of 2015 on Medium-term National Development Programme 2015-2019, as well as Presidential Decree Number 16 of 2017 on Indonesian Ocean Policy.
The ultimate goal of this vision is changing the Nation’s mind-set, attitude and its pattern of actions that previously were more ‘inland oriented’ into a maritime-oriented development.
By implementing this vision, the Government is hopeful that Indonesia will be a sovereign, advanced, independent, strong maritime nation that is able to provide a positive contribution to international peace and security in accordance with its national interest. Nevertheless, the implementation of the Global Maritime Fulcrum is currently at the very initial stage, focusing on the development of inter-island connectivity to provide the utmost benefits for its people.
The Indonesian Government also takes into account various maritime-related initiatives of other countries such as the People’s Republic of China’s – One Belt One Road, India’s – Act East and the US’ – Rebalance Policy. Indonesia believes that its maritime vision needs to be synergised with those various initiatives in accordance with the Indonesian national interest and in order to give a positive contribution to the international community.
GDL: What is Jakarta’s position in relation to the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) around the resource-rich Natuna Islands?
FA: Indonesia is party to UNCLOS 1982 and therefore has sovereign rights over EEZ around the resource-rich Natuna Islands. In doing that, in 1983 under the Law No. 5, Indonesia promulgated the Indonesian Exclusive Economic Zone.
“The ultimate goal of Indonesia’s vision as a Global Maritime Fulcrum is changing the Nation’s mind-set, attitude and its pattern of actions that previously were more ‘inland oriented’ into a ‘maritime-oriented’ development.”
GDL: What is current policy of your Government with regard to the illegal fishing boats caught in Indonesia waters?
FA: When taking office in 2014, the current President, Joko Widodo, or popularly known as President Jokowi, has envisaged that given the size and the magnitude of our maritime resources, Indonesia would become a global maritime nation. In order to achieve this, during his statement at the East Asia Summit in 2015 in Myanmar, President Jokowi launched a policy that ensured Indonesia to be a global maritime fulcrum.
One of the main foundations of this policy is that Indonesia needs to establish efforts to build and develop, as well as enhance cooperation with countries in the maritime field through maritime diplomacy. Furthermore, we need to put more effort into addressing and combatting illegal activities at sea, including illegal fishing activities in our waters.
Given the complexities and challenges of illegal fishing activities, combating illegal fishing can be effectively achieved not only through cooperation among countries, but also by ensuring that illegal fishing activities be regarded as transnational crimes. We have been working hard to campaign and mainstream illegal fishing as transnational crimes within international forums. We also garnered support from like-minded countries to campaign and raise awareness of the negative impacts of illegal fishing in the bilateral, regional and multilateral fields. Alongside this we have also called upon all countries to better cooperate through the exchange of information, law enforcement and capacity building.
Secondly, and more importantly, Indonesia is a Party to the 1982 UNCLOS. As such, Indonesia obtained sovereignty to enforce the law within our waters in accordance to article 73 of the 1982 UNCLOS. Thus, the current administration measures to combat illegal fishing activities within our waters are indeed exercised well within the existing right of both national law and international treaty. It should be clearly understood that illegal fishing vessels fish illegally in our waters and therefore it is crucial for the Government to protect our territory and enforce the law, including catching these illegal fishing vessels.
GDL: The Sea has greatly influenced Indonesian history and the ‘boat’ has long been a pervasive metaphor in the arts, literary and oral traditions of the islands. Can you elaborate more about the astonishing interconnection of the Indonesian hinterland with distant markets around the globe?
FA: According to Denys Lombard, since at least a 1,000 BC, Indonesia, or Nusantara, which it the archipelago as it is commonly referred to, was already connected through the sea. This connection was part of a larger network which connected Indonesia with the world, including Europe. Ptolomaios’ Geography which mentions an area called Iabadiu (Java or Sumatra) and was written in AD 150 is evidence of Indonesia’s importance since the beginning of global trade.
Indonesian culture itself has developed a strong connection with the sea. Four ships in the Borobudur relief, as well as batik larangan, represent the Javanese deep connection with the sea and global trade. In other areas in Indonesia this connection is also represented in folklore, such as ‘I La Galigo’, one of largest works of literature, from Bugis, South Sulawesi.
GDL: What is the political climate in Greek-Indonesian relations?
FA: I profoundly found that the political climate in Greek-Indonesian relations has been strongly positive since we gained our independence on August 17th 1945. In fact, Greece was one of the first European countries who recognised our independence from the Netherlands, to be exact on 29th December 1949.
Since then, our bilateral relations have developed strongly over years. In 2008, we agreed to establish a joint bilateral consultation forum, with the first meeting in fact being held here in Athens, discussing a wide range of issues of common concern from politics to the economy and people to people contacts.
Both countries also agreed to support each other’s candidacy in international organisations. In order to strengthen the established relationship between Greece and Indonesia, the two countries signed a Cultural and Educational Cooperation in 2008 and other perspective agreements which the two Governments will finalise in the field of economy, consular and defence cooperation, including the latest letter of intents in the field of defence industry between the two Ministries of Defence on November 2nd 2016 and capacity building for both Coast Guards, April 2018.
We also have established a Parliamentary Friendship Group between the Hellenic Republic and the Republic of Indonesia to boost Parliament to Parliament Cooperation in January 2008.
GDL: Your Excellency, in your opinion which are the sectors of the economy that both countries should be focused upon in order to accelerate collaboration?
FA: In terms of economic collaboration between the two countries, I believe that we can establish something mutually beneficial to both countries, complementing each other’s potential.
According to the report of the McKinsey Global Institute, Indonesia is currently the 16th biggest economy in the world and will potentially reach the 7th biggest economy by 2030. As the largest archipelagic country, shipping plays a pivotal role. Greece is one of the most important countries in term of the shipping industry and is located in a very strategic location in Europe. Thus, the bilateral economy between Indonesia and Greece has a great potential to grow in these two areas: shipping and trade.
Indonesia could export its commodities to Greece and will potentially channel its exporting commodities via Greece to EU countries and other surrounding countries.
According to the data in 2016, the total trade between Indonesia and Greece hit rock bottom for the past 10 years, only reaching 210.96 million US Dollars. The implementation of capital control since 2015, as well as ‘Grexit’ concerns amongst Indonesian business representatives, played a main role in this major setback.
However last year, it rose to its highest level since 2013. The total trade reached 280.93 million US Dollars with year-on-year growth of 33.16%.
Indonesian exports to Greece hit 181.48 million US Dollars (growth of 27.61%). The top Indonesian export commodities to Greece are refined palm oil, printing paper, footwear, palm kernel and cigars.
Indonesian imports from Greece also grew to 99.45 million US Dollars (growth of 44.65%). The leading import products from Greece are cotton, waste and scrap paper, printing ink, tobacco and binoculars.
This positive trend has continued throughout the period of January-March 2018. The total trade reached 82.93 million US Dollars with a growth of 27.48%.
With these encouraging trade developments, both countries should put more focus in the shipping sector.
Indonesia is currently prioritising the development of its maritime sector. Well known as a major player in the global shipping sector, Greece can be a potential partner to assist Indonesia achieve its vision of a Global Maritime Fulcrum. That is the main reason why Indonesia participated in the 2018 Posidonia Exhibition. This exhibition is perceived as a departure point to introduce and widen cooperation within shipping industries; in particular to support the growth of the Indonesian maritime policy including the ship repairs/building, inter-islands transportation and cruise/tourism industries.
“As a country with more than 300 ethnics (more than 1,000 tribes), Indonesia is rich with tradition, culture and regional languages. In order to bring the togetherness of the people, the Government of the Republic of Indonesia promotes a ‘unity in diversity’ concept. This concept promotes understanding that difference enriches human interaction. In this regards, every Indonesian is keen to share the same emotion and pride as a nation to call one motherland, one nation and one language.”
GDL: The Indonesian national motto “Unity in Diversity” makes reference to the extraordinary diversity of the Indonesian culture. What is the ingredient to success of the Indonesian national image?
FA: As a country with more than 300 ethnics (more than 1,000 tribes), Indonesia is rich with tradition, culture and regional languages. In order to bring the togetherness of the people, the Government of the Republic of Indonesia promotes a ‘unity in diversity’ concept. This concept promotes understanding that difference enriches human interaction. In this regards, every Indonesian is keen to share the same emotion and pride as a nation to call one motherland, one nation and one language.
Indonesia is the 5th largest democratic country in the world. Its Government acknowledges six religions, supports equal freedom of speech to all Indonesians, as well as encourages economic growth and prosperity nationwide. Deliberation on these equal opportunities reflect the ‘we feeling’ as a nation that eventually unite the togetherness of Indonesian nationals.
Furthermore, this same feeling as a nation is reflected and built as a foundation for the Indonesian national image, which is represented through many activities, such as:
– Inviting young foreigners to learn about the Indonesian culture and language under the framework of the annual Darmasiswa and Indonesia Art and Culture (IAC) Scholarships. This year, under the framework of IAC scholarship, we have selected two Greek students to learn more about Indonesian culture for three months. Later in August, we will facilitate two Greeks to participate in the Darmasiswa scholarship. We hope these programmes will enhance people-to-people contact between our two nations, as well as introduce Indonesian culture to Greece.
– Indonesia is also actively promoting its cultural diversity by holding performances of Indonesian dance, music and traditions in various events. On August 28th 2018, we will hold an ‘Indonesia Cultural Night in Athens’. We also plan to have Indonesian dance groups perform in international festivals in Greece, such the festivals in Lefkada, Patra and many more.
– The richness of Indonesian culture is also reflected in Indonesian traditional clothing and cuisine. One of the most prominent clothes is Indonesian Batik; it has been acknowledged as an ‘intangible cultural heritage of humanity’ from UNESCO. The Indonesian Embassy promotes Indonesian Batik by wearing it during official meetings and throughout the summer season. While wearing it, all Embassy staff are happy to explain the designs, patterns and the process surrounding the hand-dyed fabric. For very formal events, such as a diplomatic reception, we are keen to wear special Indonesian attire, such as the Kebaya (for women) and the Teluk Belanga (for men). During these events, we also present Indonesian cuisine for all invitees.
– More information on Indonesian culture can also be found on social media. The Embassy currently manages Facebook, Twitter, You tube and an official website to engage the wider public in Greece.
– In order to enhance people-to-people contact between the Indonesian and Greek citizens, we plan to formalise cooperation between universities in Indonesia and Greece. In this regards, universities could exchange students and lecturers allowing them to experience, learn and share the best of both nations.
GDL: The Embassy of Indonesia in Athens frequently organises colourful cultural events and brings Indonesian culture closer to the Greek audience. What are your future plans?
FA: The promotion of Indonesian culture is one of our priorities. On August 28th 2018, the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia, in cooperation with the Region of Attica, is going to hold an ‘Indonesian Culture Night’ at Attica Alsos Open Theatre in Athens. Twenty Indonesian dancers will perform the Saman dance from Aceh province, the Merak dance from West Jawa province, Topeng dance from East Java province, Rampak Kendang dance from Central Java province, Cendrawasih dance from Bali province and the Kalimantan dance from Borneo province.
Prior to this, the dance troupe will perform at an International Festival in Lefkada. The other programmes that promote Indonesian culture are dance performances during Indonesian diplomatic receptions, the Thessaloniki International Fair and the Athens Christmas Bazaar.
Interview by Nicolas Boutsicos
Editor, Greek Diplomatic Life