On the morning of Friday, 5 October 2018, Mr Meidyatama Suryodiningrat, the President Director of Antara National News Agency (LKBN Antara) spoke lucidly and candidly at a Regional Strategic and Political Studies (RSPS) Programme seminar. He discussed Indonesia’s foreign policy under the current administration of President Joko Widodo, or better known as Jokowi.
Mr Meidyatama Suryodiningrat during his presentation (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)
As a journalist and a public intellectual who has been involved in various tracks of foreign policy, Mr Suryodiningrat assessed Indonesia’s foreign policy under President Jokowi administration. He reviewed the fundamental concept of independent and active (bebas dan aktif) in Indonesia’s foreign policy, which is a longstanding diplomatic position of the Indonesian government after its initiation by Indonesia’s first Vice President of Sukarno, Mohammad Hatta in 1948. Mr Suryodiningrat also gave an update on the ideological narrative of the Global Maritime Fulcrum and Indonesia’s continued vigilance of the North Natuna Sea within the archipelagic framework.
After reviewing the core thrusts and strands of Indonesia’s foreign policy under Jokowi, Mr Suryodiningrat appraised Indonesia’s relations with other countries. He mentioned the cordial relations between Indonesia and China, especially during APEC 2014. Besides this, he noted that a medium power state like India has also been in talks with Indonesia to develop Sabang in Aceh. He observed that Indonesia had no significant conflicts with its maritime neighbours, Malaysia and Singapore. Pertaining to ASEAN, Mr Suryodiningrat viewed Indonesia as being a vital part of the organisation, especially as it pertains to regional leadership and the South China Sea dispute.
From left to right: Dr Siwage Dharma Negara and Mr Meidyatama Suryodiningrat (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)
2019 will be a rather difficult time for Indonesia’s foreign policy due to the rise of local nationalist politics. Moreover, foreign policy will likely be perceived in the singular lens of next year’s election. Mr Suryodiningrat opined that external factors like Islam and Palestine, migrant workers and terrorism are some of the salient issues that may dominate the coming election in 2019.
During the question and answer session, the audience engaged with the speaker on a wide range of topics and themes related to foreign policy, including the economy and natural disasters, national and regional defence and security, Islam Nusantara, people-to-people exchanges, the role of the Vice President in foreign policy, the importance of Kemlu (Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) in foreign policymaking, the geopolitical relevance of the Indo-Pacific concept, and Indonesia’s evolving relations with the United States under the Trump and Jokowi administrations.
This event brought together around 50 attendees, namely academics, government officials, civil servants, journalists, private sector employees, NGO activists, diplomats, students and retirees.
This event brought together around 50 attendees (Credit: ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)