The Jakarta Post
After a string of meetings with leaders of the world's powerhouse nations during his first nine-day official trip overseas, President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo may have redefined the meaning of a 'free and active' foreign policy.
In a press conference on board the presidential aircraft en route to Jakarta, Jokowi said that diplomacy during his administration would no longer be confined to image-building.
'For me 'free and active' is making friends with countries that can provide us with benefits. What's the point of making friends if we are always on the losing end?' said Jokowi, when asked how his vision of international affairs differed from his predecessor's.
'What's the benefit of making friends if it is aimed merely at image-building and if it risks our national interests? It does not mean that we're creating enemies. It is just that we won't be close [with countries providing no benefit to Indonesia].'
Jokowi's predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is known to have coined the phrase 'a thousand friends, zero enemies' to characterize his diplomacy doctrine. Critics have argued that such an approach may have helped cement Indonesia's status as an emerging global player, but failed to provide Indonesia with many advantages.
While Yudhoyono often eschewed straightforward communication during bilateral meetings, Jokowi is doing the opposite.
Although he speaks in a soft tone, Jokowi has been direct in recent conversations with world leaders during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Beijing, the ASEAN and East Asia summits in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, and the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia.
Jokowi held bilateral talks with, among others, Chinese President Xi Jinping, US President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and French President Francois Hollande.
During a meeting with Xi Jinping on Sunday, for example, Jokowi requested that China take concrete steps to bolster economic ties, including by enlisting Chinese state companies to help develop Indonesia's infrastructure.
Jokowi has also demanded a bigger role for Indonesia in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), proposing that the bank open its headquarters in Jakarta.
When he met Obama on Monday, Jokowi demanded that the US lift restrictions on Indonesian palm oil entering the US market.
Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi told The Jakarta Post that the administration would be more assertive in matters concerning the President's maritime-axis doctrine.
'It seems [in the past] that Indonesia could not make up its mind. Now, from the very beginning [of Jokowi's administration] we can deliver a message on what Indonesia is demanding,' she said.
Jokowi also ensured that agreements forged in the recent bilateral meetings would be followed up.
'I will instruct on Monday [in a Cabinet meeting] that all related ministers follow up on the commitments made during my meetings with world leaders. I want something concrete,' he said.
The President and his entourage arrived in Jakarta on Sunday evening. Upon his arrival he was greeted by Vice President Jusuf Kalla, several Cabinet ministers and acting Jakarta governor Basuki 'Ahok' Tjahaja Purnama.
'Bapak President will handle my swearing-in ceremony as Jakarta governor,' said Ahok, who was officially endorsed as Jakarta governor by the City Council on Friday. He will replace Jokowi following the latter's inauguration as the country's seventh president last month.
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