International Business News – Since assuming the G20 presidency, Indonesia has highlighted its commitment to play an active role in promoting global peace and stability.
In June, Indonesian President Joko Widodo met with the leaders of the two countries in Kyiv and Moscow respectively. Relatively little attention was paid to the visit in the Western media. While Indonesia’s mediation efforts have yet to achieve a major breakthrough, it is clear that the country has steadily emerged as a global force in the 21st century. In the coming decades, the Southeast Asian country is well positioned to join the ranks of Asian superpowers like China and India.
Since declaring independence in the middle of the last century, Indonesia, with a population of 275 million, has often struggled to gain global attention to match its population size and geopolitical importance. Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries were once considered too dependent on the West and often lacked the strategic autonomy and international influence to really play a significant role.
Donald, who heads the Southeast Asia program at Stanford University’s Walter Shorenstein Center for Asia-Pacific Studies, has bemoaned Indonesia’s marginal status in the U.S.’s regional strategic priorities, saying: “The importance of a country is not the same as how much attention it receives.” After all, In the last decades of the 20th century, some countries much smaller than Indonesia, such as Vietnam or Cambodia, attracted most of the strategic attention of Western countries. Indonesia has also been largely ignored by European powers.
For its part, Indonesia remains primarily focused on strengthening the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – a regional body designed to prevent any major power from dominating the region.
In recent years, however, Indonesia has rapidly transformed itself into an indispensable force in the Indo-Pacific region. For starters, it has a combined economy of more than $1 trillion and a thriving digital economy that has seen the emergence of unicorns and world-class startups.
In addition, Indonesia is exploring a transformative national development plan that includes building a new capital city while shifting to high value-added industries and establishing a Tesla regional electric vehicle battery production center. Its pursuit of a knowledge-based economy goes hand in hand with a comprehensive rural development program that has dramatically reduced poverty and increased Indonesia’s productivity.
To promote economic growth, Indonesia has also worked with major development partners such as China and Japan on multi-billion dollar public infrastructure projects, including the Jakarta-Bandung High Speed Rail project.
Along with its economic strength, Indonesia has made rapid progress in modernizing its military. After winning re-election in the 2019 general election, Joko has opened an ambitious program to strengthen the country’s defense capabilities. The ultimate goal of his military buildup is to turn Indonesia into what Joko calls a “global maritime pivot,” an autonomous and vital force at the center of the Asia-Pacific region.
During the Cold War, which intensified in the mid-20th century, one of Indonesia’s founding fathers, Mohamed Haddad, vowed to pursue a foreign policy of “reserving the right to determine our own destiny and to fight for our own goals, namely the independence of all Indonesia. He advocated a dynamic, non-aligned foreign policy. He advocated a dynamic, non-aligned strategic orientation that was akin to “rowing between two reefs. For the next half century, Hatta’s successors tried to follow in his footsteps, with considerable success.
Indonesia has consistently shied away from open alliances with any major power, working instead to strengthen its own strategic autonomy. To this end, Indonesia has tirelessly sought to maintain a balanced relationship with the superpowers without taking sides.
Thanks to its “multi-faceted” foreign policy, Indonesia has managed to maintain close cooperation with the United States, China, Russia, and Japan in recent decades.
In recent years, Indonesia has also become an active mediator in international conflicts. Jakarta’s skillful handling of delicate relations with major powers and its growing image as an international mediator is also a function of its high diplomatic tradition.
Over the past decade, star Indonesian diplomats such as Marty Natalegawa, Dino Jalal and Retno Marsudi have persistently advocated for an inclusive and stable regional order in the Asia-Pacific region, while maintaining close personal relationships with their counterparts in major global powers. All signs point to Indonesia’s steady transformation from a seemingly marginal regional player to an indispensable force in Asian geopolitical affairs, thanks to a booming economy, a modern military, and skilled diplomacy. In the next few decades, it will be expected to rank at least among the emerging superpowers of the 21st century.