Journal Articles | 15 April 2015

Sovereignty and the Sea: President Joko Widodo's Foreign Policy Challenges

In this paper for Contemporary Southeast Asia, Aaron L. Connelly argues that under President Joko Widodo, Indonesia's foreign policy is likely to become less clear, less conciliatory and less cooperative, with negative consequences for Indonesian leadership in the region.

  • Aaron L Connelly

In this paper for Contemporary Southeast Asia, Aaron L. Connelly argues that under President Joko Widodo, Indonesia's foreign policy is likely to become less clear, less conciliatory and less cooperative, with negative consequences for Indonesian leadership in the region.

  • Aaron L Connelly
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Key Findings

  • Joko Widodo is new to foreign affairs and seemingly has little interest in diplomacy.
  • Instead, Jokowi has declared that he will focus on domestic affairs as part of a broad reform programme, with a particular emphasis on strengthening Indonesia’s maritime infrastructure.
  • An activist presidency in these areas will create unintended foreign policy challenges for Indonesia because the country’s economic and maritime interests are so closely intertwined with those of its neighbours

Abstract

Indonesia’s new president, Joko Widodo, is new to foreign affairs and seemingly has little interest in diplomacy, a marked contrast with his predecessor Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who sought a role as an international statesman. Instead, Jokowi — as he prefers to be known — has declared that he will focus on domestic affairs as part of a broad reform programme, with a particular emphasis on strengthening Indonesia’s maritime infrastructure and reasserting the authority of the state. However, an activist presidency in these areas, even if intended only as a domestic effort, will create unintended foreign policy challenges for Indonesia because the country’s economic and maritime interests are so closely intertwined with those of its neighbours. This article examines Jokowi’s statements on foreign affairs, offers a survey of his foreign affairs advisers and places the president in the country’s historical and political context. It then examines potential flashpoints in Indonesia’s relationships with its neighbours over Jokowi’s agenda. It argues that under Jokowi, foreign policy is likely to become less clear, less conciliatory and less cooperative, with negative consequences for Indonesian leadership in the region.

'Sovereignty and the Sea: President Joko Widodo's Foreign Policy Challenges' first appeared in Contemporary Southeast Asia, Vol 37,No 1, April 2015, pp. 1-28. Posted here with the kind permission of the publisher, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore http://bookshop.iseas.edu.sg