Indonesia should revamp foreign policy amid global challenges: Ganjar

He also identified the four problems he deemed as the most pressing: democratic backsliding, global injustice, the global economic downturn and regional conflicts.

Yvette Tanamal

Yvette Tanamal

The Jakarta Post


Ganjar Pranowo, the 2024 presidential candidate of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), speaks on Sept. 29, 2023 at the party's national meeting in Jakarta. PHOTO: REUTERS/THE JAKARTA POST

November 8, 2023

JAKARTA – Indonesia’s “free and active” foreign policy must be redefined so it was more strategic and inclusive of the government’s needs, presidential candidate Ganjar Pranowo told a public discussion on Tuesday in Jakarta.

The Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) kick-started on Nov. 7 a series of discussions featuring next year’s presidential candidates and their foreign policy platforms.

Ganjar added that amid the complex geopolitical landscape, Indonesian diplomacy must prioritize at least five policies: food security, maritime sovereignty, energy independence, protection of overseas citizens and developing the country into an industrial hub.

The presidential candidate of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), who is contesting the 2024 election alongside Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD, took the stage as the CSIS discussion’s first speaker.

Ganjar used the platform to elaborate on the foreign policy views previously published in his campaign documents, which included a proposal to maintain neutrality amid an increasingly polarized world and to modernize the country’s defense system.

“The world is not doing well,” he said as he opened his speech, accompanied by a presentation with images of tanks in Ukraine and Palestine. “It’s common to see Machiavellianism being [adopted] for its practicality.”

He also identified the four problems he deemed as the most pressing: democratic backsliding, global injustice, the global economic downturn and regional conflicts. The former Central Java governor said that against this backdrop, ensuring a steady food supply and increasing the defense budget were necessary to safeguard the relevance of Indonesia’s free and active policy.

The country has maintained since independence its free and active foreign policy, a doctrine defined by the nonalignment stance it first adopted in 1948 in response to the polarity of the Cold War.

Regional friends

With much of his speech centering on how diplomacy could help fulfill Indonesia’s domestic interests, Ganjar expressed his belief that existing diplomatic channels like ASEAN could help support the government. However, he added a caveat that the 10-member bloc must be “revitalized” so it could function better for the region’s sake.

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Ganjar did not clearly describe potential measures to revitalize ASEAN, which has faced many criticisms and louder calls for institutional reform amid its perceived ineffectiveness in recent years. He only hinted that “not every decision must be based on full consensus” if it was for the collective good.

ASEAN had much potential to be harnessed, he continued, and since Indonesia was the bloc’s natural leader, the country needed bold leadership to ensure that ASEAN could reassert its strength in the region.

“True leadership isn’t being an event organizer. It’s making decisions,” Ganjar said.

Regarding food safety, Ganjar said Indonesia should intensify negotiations toward trade deals with fertilizer-producing countries, including Canada, China, Egypt, Jordan and Russia. In the same vein, he added, Indonesia should take a stronger leadership position at the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR).

Power competition

Ganjar asserted that if he won, Indonesia would not be partial to any country.

Referring specifically to the competition between China and the United States, he said this could bring some economic benefits to the country, which he envisioned becoming an “alternative supply hub” in line with its industrialization scheme.

“For example, in the energy sector, whoever can work with us [are welcome],” he added.

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While avoiding mention of the territorial claims in the South China Sea, the PDI-P candidate said that if elected, defending Indonesia’s maritime sovereignty would be key to his administration’s foreign policy. He also announced plans to “multiply the budget for maritime defense” and to build a strong domestic defense industry.

Observers and analysts who tuned into Ganjar’s speech posted their criticisms on social media shortly after, with many pointing to the presidential candidate’s lack of details and a tendency to skirt urgent issues, such as the South China Sea.

Former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, who is contesting the 2024 election with National Awakening Party (PKB) chair Muhaimin Iskandar, is slated to present his foreign policy platform on Wednesday at the second CSIS discussion.

Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who is running with Surakarta Mayor Gibran Rakabuming Raka as his vice president, meanwhile had to withdraw from his original slot on Monday due to a scheduling conflict. He is expected to take part on Oct. 13.

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