November 14, 2023
JAKARTA – As the world enters a new era of shifting powers, it is in Indonesia’s best interest to maintain neutrality and seek cooperation with as many countries as possible, presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto said.
If elected, he would for the most part continue the foreign policy of his predecessor President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, heavily leaning toward domestic prosperity as a way to establish a stronger global presence, Prabowo said.
On Monday, Prabowo addressed dozens of international diplomats, researchers and journalists at a discussion at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where he outlined his foreign policy platform.
Prabowo began by saying that the ideal Indonesian foreign policy could be encapsulated in what is referred to as the “Good Neighbor Policy” which encompasses Jakarta’s commitment to be a non-aligned, free and active state.
He defined this neighbor policy as “a web of strong friendships between Indonesia and its neighbors”, saying that this would be the strongest pillar of Indonesia’s diplomacy. It would also appeal to the common denominator sought by all countries, he said, which is sufficient peace and stability to increase prosperity.
“A policy of good neighborliness in our region and in the world is in our strategic interest. Even our defense outlook would be based on this premise,” Prabowo said.
“This relationship web will invite foreign investments and markets, and create jobs for our people to eradicate poverty. […] We will not join any bloc. We will not be part of any military alliance. That is against our traditions.”
This principle of being a good neighbor, Prabowo said, encompasses the Southeast Asian region, and would prevail amid difficult relationships.
When asked about his policy on the rivalry between the United States and China, which in recent years has raised concerns over the security of the Indo-Pacific region, Prabowo said Jakarta would continue to have a good relationship with the two countries, adding that “one thousand friends are too few, one enemy is to many”.
He said that he was optimistic that Beijing and Washington’s competition would not break into an open conflict, despite the global anxiety over an imminent war.
On difficult relationships, Prabowo said that he would stand behind Jokowi’s industry downstreaming plans despite pushback from the European Union (EU), citing poverty alleviation as his primary reason behind the endorsement.
Addressing some envoys of EU member states who were present at Monday’s discussion, Prabowo said that Indonesia’s recent trade policies were not made to spite its European partners, but warned that the EU’s response may contribute to its already flailing international reputation.
“The problem is not with us. The problem is with you,” Prabowo quipped. “We love Europe. The problem is that Europe doesn’t love us. Europe doesn’t even know us, they [only] know Bali.”
Last year, the EU won the case it filed at the World Trade Organization (WTO) against Indonesia’s export ban on raw nickel, a policy part of critical mineral downstreaming efforts. Indonesia later appealed the ruling.
The disagreement also came as the EU legislated a new deforestation regulation, which would block much of Indonesia’s key exports from entering the European market, including crude palm oil, coffee, tea, rubber and cocoa. Indonesia has vehemently rejected this new regulation.
“I think sometimes there’s a bit of unfairness,” Prabowo said. “By the way, it was the Europeans who forced us to plant tea, coffee, rubber and chocolate. And now you’re saying we are destroying our forests? You destroyed our forests first.”
The same spirit of dialogue and collaboration would still be at the forefront of any diplomatic troubles, Prabowo asserted.
While Prabowo’s foreign policy platform may be copious in its aspirations of peace, the defense minister has failed to present a concrete strategy or policy beyond normative philosophy, said Evan A. Laksamana, a senior analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
“Indonesia needs a well-developed strategy and goals beyond normative ideas and certainly we need more concrete policies rather than hoping that things will work out for themselves,” he told The Jakarta Post.
Prabowo was the last speaker in the CSIS series held to discuss foreign policies of all three aspiring presidents.
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) candidate Ganjar Pranowo, who took the stage last week, emphasized the need to improve Jakarta’s defense prowess while ramping up its international proactiveness.
Former Jakarta governor Anies Baswedan, on the other hand, said last week that he would stop transactional diplomacy if elected, putting values at the forefront of international relations while establishing a solid Indonesian soft power.