May 5, 2022
JAKARTA – It is widely known among foreign envoys in Jakarta that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s foreign policies are based on down-to-earth purposes and pragmatism.
It was practically only in November 2021, when Indonesia was getting closer to holding the Group of 20 presidency, that Jokowi took command of diplomatic activities, such as boycotting Myanmar’s junta leader Min Aung Hlaing at all ASEAN functions for his blatant refusal to implement the five-point consensus he promised to respect during the ASEAN emergency summit in April last year.
The President again demonstrated such pragmatic diplomacy when he combined international issues and bilateral economic interests when receiving Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Bogor Palace on April 29. The Prime Minister seemed enthusiastic in talking about the two agenda items by reiterating Japan’s economic, trade and investment commitments to Indonesia.
And Jokowi believes that Japan always delivers on its promises.
Kishida was on a diplomatic tour to Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Italy and Britain as Japan celebrated Golden Week. He shared with his hosts Japan’s international concerns, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the rising military tension in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Tension has been brewing in the region as Beijing becomes more assertive about its sovereignty and sovereign claims over the two seas, while Japan aspires to the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP).
To his guest, President Jokowi highlighted his expectations that Japan would do more in bilateral investment, trade and economic ties, including the construction of the new capital city and other infrastructure projects.
“In investment, I welcome the expansion of Japanese automotive companies, such as Toyota and Mitsubishi. But I am also expecting more new investments from Japan, especially in the energy, cement, agriculture and health technology sectors, and making Indonesia an important part of Japan’s global supply chain,” said Jokowi.
Kishida responded positively, although in the end, the market will decide. For Indonesia, Japan remains one of its most important trading partners and investment sources.
The Japanese leader was on a mission to drum up more multilateral cooperation in facing global security crises, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. For Jokowi, Kishida’s visit constituted Japan’s support for Indonesia’s G20 presidency and the Bali summit in November.
Kyodo news agency quoted Kishida as saying that, based on mutual understanding, the two sides confirmed they would strengthen cooperation toward realizing the FOIP that Japan had been pushing, as well as the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific spearheaded by Indonesia.
“We are facing many challenges, including the situations in Ukraine, the East and South China seas and North Korea, and maintaining and strengthening the rules-based, free and open international order has become more important,” Kishida said at a joint press conference after his visit with Jokowi.
The Japanese leader’s visit to Indonesia was mutually beneficial, but the two nations should not take everything for granted amid the rapid changes in the global security and defense architectures.