Ivy Susanti, The Jakarta Post/Jakarta
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said Indonesia must play a leading role in world affairs and suggested it could start by engaging East Asian and Pacific countries.
""Speaking about changes, people are usually faced with three options: whether we should be part of the change, follow the change or lead the change. Indonesia, God willing, surely cannot only be a follower in the changing world but, as former president Sukarno and others showed us, we should be able to lead on certain issues in international relations. This is our ultimate goal, and we can only achieve it if we are doing well at home, such as creating good governance, so we can have strength, capacity and credibility to do more in world affairs,"" he said.
Susilo was speaking during a foreign policy breakfast -- a gathering of the foreign minister, legislators, businesspeople, the media, students, social and religious organizations and academics -- on the occasion of the foreign ministry's 60th anniversary on Aug. 19.
Susilo said Indonesia's foreign policy was founded on four principles: maintaining a constructive approach to diplomacy, maintaining the country's identity in the world, maintaining a nationalistic attitude and avoiding military alliances with other countries.
""Our national interests include, how to rebuild Indonesia after the 1997 economic crisis? How to maintain national sovereignty and regional integrity? And how to accomplish national reform successfully? These are the questions that should be kept in mind when making foreign policy.""
He said Indonesia should take more active role in regional and international forums, like those of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the East Asian Summit, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Organization of Islamic Conference and the Asian-African Conference and the United Nations.
""We want to work with Pacific countries like Australia, New Zealand, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea, Nauru and many others. If we want to become the center of regional cooperation and friendship, we must not neglect these countries. They are actually part of the solution,"" he said.
While the world is governed by what he referred to as the ""universal norms"" of capitalism, democracy, human rights, the rule of law and environmental concerns, a ""new sovereignty"" in which countries can intervene in the affairs of other countries on certain grounds like human rights, and a single superpower, Susilo said Indonesia should understand but not necessarily adopt all of these values.
""Speaking about Indonesia's free and independent foreign policy, we must have independent judgment and freedom of action ... Not all countries can build a Great Wall like the Chinese to stop outside influences and values from entering the country,"" he said.
He stressed the importance of involving people from all walks of life in formulating Indonesia's foreign policy. But he said that anyone involved in diplomacy should use their intellect rather than emotion.
""We have to mix emotions with rationality. We all have hearts but we should also use rational thinking in situations where Indonesia is cornered by others,"" he said.
At the end of his speech, Susilo shared his own way of dealing with foreign leaders. He said he took the time to call the leaders personally whenever a problem arose.
""We have to be visionary, but at the same time remain practical. Sometimes, I call foreign leaders at midnight for a discussion. When we had disagreements with Malaysia over Ambalat, their handling of our migrant workers and now we have the haze problem, I took the time to call Abdullah Badawi (the Malaysian prime minister). I also called (John) Howard (the Australian PM) and Xanana (Gusmao, the Timor Leste president) on other issues. My point is, we need to be practical sometimes without worrying about losing face,"" he said.
Also present at the event were several Cabinet ministers and legislators, People's Consultative Assembly Speaker Hidayat Nur Wahid, Nahdlatul Ulama chairman Hasyim Muzadi and Indonesian Ulema Council secretary-general Din Syamsuddin.