The Jakarta Post
Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle's (PDI-P) presidential candidate Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo gave an impressive performance during the third televised debate organized by the General Elections Commission (KPU) on international affairs and defense issues, two subjects considered strong suits for his rival, Gerindra Party's Prabowo Subianto.
Early in the debate, Jokowi showed off his wonkish understanding of foreign affairs by outlining several priorities in his overseeing of foreign policy, if elected president.
In his opening statement, Jokowi said that he would make the protection of Indonesian citizens abroad and the protection of the country's natural resources priorities.
Prabowo, meanwhile, spoke in platitudes with emphasis on prosperity as the key to improving the country's standing on the international map.
In an apparent move to win the hearts of Muslim voters, many of whom believed in but abandoned him following a smear campaign questioning his faith, Jokowi said that he would support an independent Palestinian state.
'We will support the independence of Palestine and its membership of the United Nations,' Jokowi said in his opening statement.
Jokowi also said his administration would promote dialogue and restrain from using military power even in international conflicts.
'Border conflicts should be resolved through intense diplomacy. I believe if we could send our best diplomats to handle it, it would be easily resolved,' Jokowi said.
Jokowi, however, said his administration could go the extra mile if foreign countries infringed on the country's sovereignty.
'But if it's a serious violation, don't think that I can't be firm. If it warrants not being taken lightly then I will seriously cause a rumble. Being firm means having the courage to make a decision and accept the risk,' Jokowi said, delivering a blow to Prabowo's crafted image as being a firm and resolute leader.
Prabowo, meanwhile, consistent with his nationalistic view on the economy, said that he would protect the country's natural resources against being plundered by foreign powers and use them to improve the people's welfare.
'Foreign policy is nothing if we are weak internally in terms of economy. One thing that I have repeatedly said is how to secure our national security and our national wealth. This is a fundamental to have in order to have a strong bargaining position on the global stage,' Prabowo said.
Prabowo appeared to tone down his nationalistic rhetoric by pledging that he would not take drastic measures and would continue many of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's foreign policies, if elected president.
Just like Jokowi, Prabowo said that he would promote dialogue as a tool to solve any dispute with regional neighbors as part of his 'good neighbor policy'.
On another regional issue, the country's rocky relationship with Australia, the two candidates approached the problem differently,
While Prabowo said that the roller-coaster of Indonesia-Australia relations resulted from the latter's phobia toward its northerly neighbor, Jokowi attributed the problem to a lack of trust.
'The wiretapping incident reflects that it is a matter of trust. If we continue to build on G2G [government to government], B2B [business to business] and P2P [people to people] relations, we could reduce conflict,' said Jokowi, adding that cultural diplomacy and education cooperation could work further to reduce tension.
Prabowo also used the issue of foreign policy to attack PDI-P chairperson Megawati Soekarnoputri, when she served as president between 2001 and 2004 for her decision to divest valuable state assets, including state telecommunication firm PT Indosat.
'Indosat was sold during the administration of Ibu Mega, yet we know it has strategic value. What do you think of this?' Prabowo asked.
Jokowi defended Megawati, saying that she made the decision when the government was cash-strapped. 'Let's not talk about the past but focus on the future. If necessary, we have the buy-back option,' Jokowi said.
Foreign affairs analyst Wiryono Sastrohandoyo said the two candidates attempted to be nationalistic in their views to woo voters, which could scare off foreign investors.
'Bringing up this nationalistic sentiment will create fear among foreign investors,' he said.
Key excerpts from the third debate
The foundation for our foreign affairs and defense is the prosperity of the nation. Foreign affairs will mean nothing if domestically we are weak. If we are poor, then we will not be highly regarded by other nations. Domestic conditions reflect the strength of our foreign policy. Indonesia should secure its national resources as too many of them are flowing overseas. We should improve our domestic economic strength. Indonesia does not want to have enemies; 1,000 friends are not enough but just one enemy is too many.
* Resolving disputes with neighboring states. The government's core national interest is to protect the integrity of our nation. If that interest is disrupted by others, we must defend it. If there is a dispute, we need to resort to dialogue. We need to build friendships with other nations. We will impose a 'good neighbor' policy, promote tolerance and forge mutual understanding.
* Migrant worker protection. To prevent unskilled workers from going overseas, we need to improve education. Such an improvement will need money and that can only be provided if the economy is strong.
* On SBY's foreign policy. The policy is on track and we see no need to change it.
* Greatest foreign threat. There are certain countries that will try to claim our territory. We must be prepared.
* Greatest domestic threat. Poverty has weakened the strength of our nation.
* On the purchase of the Leopard main battle tanks (MTBs). The MTB is suitable for our terrain, and we need them.
* Relations with Australia. Honestly, the problem does not lie within Indonesia. The problem is on the Australian side. Australia has a phobia about us, as it sees that in the past, we conducted several military operations. We have to convince our friends in Australia that we are a good neighbor. We are not a threat to Australia.
Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo
The foundation of our foreign policy is to be 'free and active'. This would be carried out with four strategies: Protect migrant workers; protect natural and maritime resources; improve productivity and competitiveness; and participate in improving regional and global security. Around 80 percent of our ambassadors' time should be spent on marketing our products. The world's geopolitics has shifted from the West to the East. This has created a greater chance for Indonesia to play a significant role.
* Palestinian issue. We will support the independence of Palestine and its membership within the United Nations.
* Defense policies. Improve the welfare of military personnel; modernize military equipment; modernize the defense industry; and aim to win battles on sea and land. Economic growth of more than 7 percent will allow for greater defense spending. There is a need for a military draft.
* Maritime safeguards. We would deploy drones to detect stolen resources, and prepare for future battles using these devices. Drone command centers could be established in Jakarta, Kalimantan and Sulawesi.
* Resolving disputes with neighboring states. Border conflicts should be resolved through intense diplomacy. I believe if we send our best diplomats to handle such cases, they can be speedily resolved.
* Migrant worker protection. Before their placements, migrant workers should receive training and undergo a
strict selection process. Our embassies should actively collect complete data on our migrant workers and closely monitor their situations. We should not send our migrant workers to countries that do not have a migrant treaty with Indonesia.
* On World Trade Organization (WTO) issues. There are pros and cons to joining the WTO. If we do not join, then our goods may be subjected to barriers. We need to improve our productivity and competitiveness in order to compete against imported products. The problem is not with the WTO, but with our lack of competitiveness.
* On the sale of PT Indosat (formerly a state company) to a foreign entity. The Indosat sale was a direct result of the 1998 financial crisis, when the government needed money. There was a clause in the sale agreement that would allow us to buy back Indosat, and in the future we should do that.
* South China Sea. This issue involves other countries. We should be careful about getting involved in that as we do not want to ignite the wrath of other countries, particularly China. But we would always be ready to contribute to a peaceful resolution. If our help is not needed, we should not force a contribution on others.
* Relations with Australia. There is an issue of trust between us, which has been ignited by the wiretapping incident. There should be more interaction between people. Diplomacy through education and culture should be prioritized. Australia also seems to regard us as a weak country; this is something that should not be taken lightly.
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