Jakarta – In her year-opening press conference on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi talked in detail about the country's diplomatic achievements in 2022 and her top priorities as President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's chief diplomat this year as the country assumes the rotary ASEAN chairmanship.
Retno maintained that the country had excelled on at least five diplomatic fronts last year: the maintenance of national sovereignty, the protection of its citizens, economic diplomacy, public health and contributions to regional and world peace.
This year, the ministry has set four targets: diplomatic progress on questions of sovereignty, including land and sea borders; citizen protection; economic cooperation; and active participation in peace and humanitarian diplomacy.
The President, too, has set ambitious diplomatic targets reflected in the theme of Indonesia's ASEAN chairmanship "ASEAN matters: Epicentrum of growth". This mirrors his focus on the economy, typical of the pragmatic leader.
The theme, according to Retno, embodies Indonesia's determination "to make ASEAN important and relevant for the people of ASEAN and beyond".
This year will likely be the zenith of President Jokowi's foreign policy. He steps down in October 2024, but as the general elections will be held on Feb. 14, 2024, the last eight months of his term will be occupied with ensuring a smooth transition of power.
The foreign minister knows very well that the President wants to leave his mark on ASEAN by achieving a breakthrough in efforts to end the humanitarian crisis besetting Myanmar. The Foreign Ministry has set up a special team to address the issue, the Office of Special Envoy, which directly answers to the minister. Retno has reportedly proposed former foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda for the role of special envoy.
The government will focus on leaving a lasting legacy to ASEAN, especially with regard to the economy and regional security. Retno has set out the country's priorities in an effort to ensure that the next ASEAN chair, Laos, can preserve and even enhance the legacy.
The success of Indonesia's Group of 20 presidency is an important asset it can capitalize on to lead ASEAN in confronting the brutality of Myanmar's military junta under Gen. Min Aung Hlaing. The influx of Rohingya people seeking refuge in Indonesia to escape the ordeal on their home soil in Myanmar is worrying because the humanitarian crisis could morph into a security concern for Indonesia.
The abstention of China and Russia, both permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, in the international body's resolution on Myanmar can help Indonesia and ASEAN reach a much-anticipated breakthrough. Specifically, China wants ASEAN to take a leading role in overcoming the Myanmar issue.
For Retno, this year will also mark the peak of her career as foreign minister. As the President is known for his small appetite for foreign policy, Retno, who has served since 2014, has been entrusted with handling foreign policy-making in line with the President's wishes.
The foreign minister also has the opportunity to leave a bold legacy at the Foreign Ministry. Her foreign policy choices will help determine ASEAN's success under Indonesia's leadership this year.