In an increasingly open world and vague state boundaries, inter-personal and inter-state interactions and relationships demand redefinition. Since independence, Indonesia has adhered to the principle of active and free foreign policy. Although in practice, a foreign interest of a country often depends on the strengths of certain countries, especially those playing an important role in the United Nations, Indonesia always strives to maintain its independence. In cases that require a firm stance, such as in mediating disputes, conflicts, and wars, Indonesia seeks to be active by adhering to the principles laid down by the Constitution.
After the Cold War, living the free principle should have been easier, since there was no more ideological blocks that had previously been the determinant toward a country’s foreign policy. The challenge ahead is how Indonesia plays its role in building its own power without hurting its relations with other countries.
With our conducive political-economic situation, Indonesia can play its role actively and influence its good achievement to other countries. Openness and cooperation with the outside world is a key word in fostering our foreign relations. It is no longer time to exerts exclusivity nor inflame a narrow nationalism.
PSI considers there are a number of important issues in which Indonesia should take and redefine its stand in dealing with other countries. In addition, in order to respond to the increasingly open world challenge, Indonesia also has to prepare the required tools to ease and facilitate its international relations.
- Strategic Relationship with China
China, both as a country and as an ethnic, has always been a hot issue and an endless debate. The discussions about the issue of foreign relations with China is inseparable with the existence and role of Chinese descends in this country.
Indonesia’s ties with China have been experiencing ups and downs. In the early 1950s until the mid-1960s, Indonesia’s relations with China had been very intimate. Various political and cultural cooperation were built, as well as international solidarity through the establishment of New Emerging Forces (NEFO) alliance. However, their relationship has also had experienced its lowest point.
In 1967, Indonesia officially broke diplomatic ties with China. The issue of communism and jealousy against the economic-political role of Chinese descendants became the trigger and the worsening background of the relationship. Practically, for over 20 years, China was alienated from Indonesia. Only in 1989, efforts to improve relations between the two countries recommenced.
It is now time for Indonesia to move on away from past bitter memories. China has changed. China that we are witnessing is not China faced by the parents and generation of our predecessors. In the last 25 years, China has managed to build its economic power, not with the path and ideology that some of our predecessors had feared, but by the way people in the West, Japan and Korea boosted their economic growth. In this way, the Chinese economy has grown above an average of 9% per year for two decades in a row.
China has emerged as one of the world’s economic power. The Chinese miracle became a model for many countries, as it’s often referred as a successful model of transformation from a backward country into a developed one. Our society is divided. Those who are unable to move-on from the past, suspect and refused efforts to improve relations with the country. But the optimists see China as a challenge and an opportunity. PSI views the relationship between Indonesia and China should continue to be strengthened. China’s role in this region is simply too great to be ignored.
- Transmitting Democracy in ASEAN
As the largest country – both geographically and demographically – in the ASEAN region, Indonesia plays an important role in maintaining stability and determining the direction of inter-state relations of the region. Indonesia often plays an important role in resolving conflicts and the peace process taking place in ASEAN. As one of the founders of this regional organization, Indonesia has a strategic position in influencing the political dynamics in the region.
One of the key points in the ASEAN Charter (Article 1, Point 7) is to encourage the democratization process to its member countries. Among these member countries, Indonesia is the most successful country in running its democracy. With all its shortcomings, Indonesia’s democracy is the best in the ASEAN region. According to Freedom House, our Freedom Index is the highest in ASEAN, followed by Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore.
Diplomatic and cooperative approaches should take precedence, in order to avoid tension among member countries. At the government level, democratization efforts in the ASEAN region have been conducted by enabling several summits and dialog forums on the importance of democracy in order to maintain the peace and stability of the region.
At the community level, these efforts must be strengthened again. PSI considers that public diplomacy that has been neglected by Indonesian government should be encouraged, by allowing individuals, institutions, and community organizations to carry out their activities, particularly those related to cooperative efforts with partners in the ASEAN region.
- Indonesia as a Model of Democracy for the Islamic World
Indonesia is the third largest democracy after India and the United States and the largest Muslim country considered successful in democracy. In recent years, scholars and mass media have highlighted the successful transition of democracy in Indonesia. As the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, Indonesia is considered a success story, not only it was able to get through the difficult times of democratic transition, but also, slowly, improved its economic condition. Prior to this, Muslim countries have always been excluded in every conversation about Islam and democracy (Islamic exceptionalism). But, Indonesia showed the opposite of how Islam and democracy can walk hand in hand.
One of the keys success of democracy in our country is the social capital we are endowed with. Unlike most Muslim countries, especially in the Middle East, Indonesian Muslims generally have attributes and characters that are compatible with democratic values, such as tolerant, open, and willing to participate in politics. Two major Islamic organizations, namely Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama, are moderate organizations that support the ideals of democracy. These two large organizations are the anchor for Islam in Indonesia. Things like this are not found in Pakistan, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and some other Muslim countries.
PSI believes that through the solidarity of the Islamic world, Indonesia can strengthen dialogue and promote a positive image of Islam, which is not contrary to modern values, including democracy in it. The main challenge of the regime in Muslim countries is the breaking of their society’s view of modern values. Suspicion of the Western world is often a major obstacle in adopting the positive values they are supposed to be doing. Indonesia can be an example that Muslims can be modern without sacrificing their religious values as well as holding up their faith.
- Relations with Australia
Just like neighboring relationships anywhere, there’s always the ups and downs moment in Indo-Australia’s relationship. Whenever there are political events that touch nationalism or emotionally draining events, relations between the two countries are strained. The mass media in Indonesia and Australia act the mouthpiece for the exchange of politicians in both countries. However, the word war usually passes quickly, given how interdependent both countries are. Indonesia and Australia both have an interest and are equally concerned to continue to maintain good relations.
Australia is a country that has long been committed to assist Indonesia in the areas of health, education, social welfare, and security training. Every year, no fewer than 300 Indonesian students arrive to the land in the land of Kangaroos, pursuing master and doctoral program supported by the Australian government.
Australia also provides health and advocacy assistance to improve social welfare. For them, Indonesia is a business market for the businessmen of that country. No fewer than 400 Australian companies open their business here. Indonesia is also a major destination for Australian tourism.
Against such background, PSI considers that Indonesia-Australia relations should continue to be improved. Cooperation between communities should be more attempted. During this time, the relations between the two countries are more often knit by inter-governmental cooperation, leaving the inter-individual or inter-community relationships have less attention. In the future, both countries, especially Indonesia, should be more aware of this aspect.
- Dual-Citizenship Problems
Although it has been long striven for, the law on bi-nationality has not yet been successfully achieved. The reasons vary, from the protracted debate stemming from differences in perceptions of nationalism; the splitting public view of this concept, to the procedural problems associated with discussions in the parliament.
Those who reject the dual-citizenship concept assume that this concept can diminish the sense and spirit of nationalism; while those who agree instead argue vice versa, namely that the main reason diaspora demanding duality citizenship is because the spirit of nationalism they have is very high. Having two nationalities does not mean they are less nationalistic, but precisely because they are very nationalistic. So nationalistic they are that they do not want to lose their rights as citizens of Indonesia.
Beyond the debate on nationalism, the calculation of the pros and cons for Indonesia to apply the dual citizenship system is actually more beneficial than harmful. As has been shown by many studies, countries that apply the dual citizenship system gain more benefits than those who reject it. In today’s increasingly open world and increased human mobility, being closed and self-reserved will only bring loss than advantages, either because it will lose its best citizens or lose the financial potentials that will add to the country’s foreign exchange.
Taking into account of those factors, PSI fully supports the adoption of a dual citizenship system and does everything in its power to immediately pass this dual citizenship law.