The interview in Jakarta Post (1/5) shows us many important points in Indonesian foreign policy nowadays.
Firstly, international politics is understood by this doctrine in a state of "dynamic equilibrium" and "cold peace". The polarity of the main character of international politics in post-cold war era is believed by government to be shifted, opening opportunities for strategic cooperation. It means, there are many economic-political changes in international politics which cannot be understood as “unipolarity” anymore.
The dynamic equilibrium concept implies greater possibilities for all nations to move as a new power entity in international relations. For Indonesia, this thesis allows us to upgrade economic and political strength and begin an era of cooperation between “south-to-south” countries.
Secondly, dynamic equilibrium condition is equal position between “south” countries to to cooperate peacefully and mutually without having to depend on the hegemony in international politics. As implication, Indonesian foreign policy must reach the potential power on the developing countries without having to deny the existence of the “north” power. This was reflected in foreign policy direction of Republic of Indonesia, as has been formulated by Minister Natalegawa in the beginning of his period.
Thirdly, This doctrine also considers that the world experienced the cold conditions of peace. Residual forces of the cold war are still exist, but we cannot deny that new forces that has been appears after the cold war cannot be underestimated. For example, there are China and India which has dominated Asian market and soon become a new emerging forces in regional –even international— economics. Relations between these forces are not conflictual like cold war era. The relation is more competitive, dynamic, and revolved around non-political matters.
Fourthly, the paradigm of international security nowadays has also shifted in line with the actor pluralism. Thus, with this view, cooperation opportunities are widely opened. Minister Natalegawa responded this situation by increasing economic cooperation, both at the level of ASEAN or Asia-Pacific.
Revitalizing "Hatta Doctrine"?
Actually, the concept of foreign policy developed by Minister Natalegawa is one step ahead from what we have known as the "Doctrine Hatta". Since 1945, we already understand the foreign policy formula of "free and active foreign policy” as a doctrine in our decision-making process.
The original design of this doctrine come from a speech entitled "Rowing Between Two Reefs (Mendayung Di Antara Dua Karang)” in BP KNIP assembly meeting, September 2, 1948. For many years, this concept is believed as the most relevant concept in foreign policy decision-making. In the “Hatta Doctrine”, Indonesia's position is not only free and independent from global conflict between two great forces at that time: Sovyet Union and The United States of America. but also actively involved in peace-making process. This doctrine in written explicitly in our constitution.
For many years, there is a misperception that identify this concept as "neutral foreign policy." This misperception implies an unclear Indonesia’s position in international politics. Even, Soekarno in 1959 violate this concept by making the Jakarta-Peking axis. In fact, the word "free" is followed by "active" as explanatory, which means that Indonesia must play a position for world peace without carrying great powers’ interest.
In post-cold war era, this doctrine also raises another critical question. While the polarity of power began to absurd with the collapse of the Sovyet Union, how is the position of Indonesia in international politics? Is the “neutral” position still relevant, while the dynamics of international relations move into a new approach and perspective? At this point, the “free and active foreign policy” will be problematic.
Public is usually confronted with classical problems such as relations with United States or aircraft trading with Russia. Therefore, the new foreign policy doctrine that is more contextual and embody the previous doctrine in new position is basically needed. “Natalegawa doctrine” seems to answer this challenge.
In other sense, of course “Natalegawa Doctrine” is not free from criticism. Views on Indonesian foreign policy leads to a critical question: how can Indonesia move among the competition of new forces in post-cold war era?
The entry of Indonesia in the G-20, an exclusive group of developed countries has become its own achievements. But, this exclusive position will be faced with how public interest embodied. It is not only about our national interest and acceptance in international society, but also in domestic response. The government must also balance foreign policy with the interests of the wider community.
The claim of total diplomacy by involving all stakeholders as diplomatic constituent, which often echoed by the government, is criticized because it assessed invisible form. But in fact, the implementation of this claim is totally important to make sure that public have attention on the diplomatic practice and propaganda which has been made by government.
In addition, criticism has also appeared in governement's style in responding international problems. President Yudhoyono is still consistent with the spirit of "zero enemy, million friends", as reflected in his speeches in responding, for example, the border conflict with Indonesia and Malaysia. Some have considered this as a pragmatic and unclear position.
When compared,“Doctrine Yudhoyono” is quite ambiguous. Dynamic equilibrium is established through the strengthening of regional cooperation. It means, the basis of foreign policy decision-making process is emphasized in the formation of regionalism—especially Southeast Asian regionalism (ASEAN). It implies that we should make friends in strategic position, not for all countries. The criticism for presidential-based foreign policy is that the policy too fixated on the imagery and spirit of "zero enemy, million friends". It is confusing in determine what strategic position of Indonesia in regional level.
Of course, it would be very premature if we take an evaluation of this new construction of our foreign policy. However, constructive criticism should be built and public oversight needs to be strengthened to match "total diplomacy" . It will be better if public can watch and control the execution of diplomacy and foreign policy practice, and together criticizing if there are some mistakes.
Hopefully, “Natalegawa Doctrine" can answer our curiosity about the new way of Indonesia to "reach for power" in international politics.
*) Staff in Institute of International Studies, Gadjah Mada University, Yogyakarta