The Jakarta Post
ust as he re-emphasized on Monday, President Joko 'Jokowi' Widodo's down-to-earth leadership platforms will determine the direction of his foreign policy in the next five years, meaning that there will be little room for jargon and verbose claims of achievements, such as about the pivotal role Indonesia plays in managing international conflicts. But it does not mean the Foreign Ministry will set aside other basic and traditional missions.
When opening the Foreign Ministry's four-day working meeting in Jakarta on Monday, the President instructed 132 ambassadors, chief representatives to international organizations, consuls general and other officials at overseas offices to prioritize agendas that are directly connected with the country's economic interests, besides other tasks such as the protection and provision of public services for Indonesian citizens abroad.
Jokowi's first meeting with the senior diplomats is very timely and strategic because they are his official representatives abroad. The diplomats had the opportunity to get firsthand information from the President on his maritime vision, among other policies.
Hopefully the President also gave the diplomats a chance to share their experiences or to convey suggestions or complaints as he did when meeting with other officials. The same is expected of Cabinet ministers who will brief the Foreign Ministry officials and envoys. It would be much more productive if the ministers were to take more time to listen to than to brief the participants.
Citing his own experiences in dealing with representatives of foreign countries, both as the Jakarta governor and the President, Jokowi concluded that 'nearly 90 percent of them speak about economic issues'.
As the President's envoys, the diplomats hold the mandate and responsibility to implement his vision and mission.
But it would be unfair to measure their achievements from their success in promoting foreign investment in Indonesia and boosting exports , because not all the envoys are posted in countries with a sound economy. The President has made it clear that the diplomats should pursue real national interests.
Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi has laid out four goals to carry out the President's platform: to protect territorial sovereignty, to protect Indonesian citizens, to boost economic diplomacy, including maritime diplomacy, and to step up Indonesia's role in the region and the international community.
The ministry has achieved progress in protecting Indonesians and providing public services to them, especially migrant workers. More migrant workers now look upon embassies as places where they are treated well as citizens.
However Indonesian foreign diplomacy is much determined by domestic affairs. Diplomacy is just a mirror of Indonesia's national progress. Letting the diplomats work alone to woo investors or to promote Indonesian exports will not work at all. Diplomatic missions cannot help the government defend, let alone achieve, national interests without support from domestic stakeholders.
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