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Tell us more, Prabowo

Jakarta Post Editorial - June 11, 2024

Jakarta – In Indonesian history, there has never been a long transitional period for the national leadership. With the support of President "Jokowi" Widodo and his cabinet, president-elect Prabowo Subianto has six months to prepare his administration, including the 2025 state budget that he helps draft.

On the diplomacy front, the defense minister has said that the next five years will see a hands-on approach to foreign policy. Therefore, now is a good time for Prabowo to explain his foreign policy plans. This will help Indonesia's close and far neighbors, international organizations and the Foreign Ministry adjust to his ideas at their earliest convenience.

It is only natural that Prabowo should try to avoid giving the impression that there are two "governments" running the country, which could lead to unnecessary misunderstanding or even conflict with the outgoing, "lame-duck" cabinet.

Prabowo's foreign policy approach will diverge from the current practices, yet fundamental principles will remain, such as a free and active foreign policy and the prioritization of ASEAN as the primary focus of Indonesia. However, Prabowo will also leverage Indonesia's position as a middle power to its fullest extent. This will involve a more assertive stance, though one not without risk, including potential controversies.

Prabowo's passion for diplomacy was evident in a series of overseas events he attended recently, as well as his meetings with global leaders. On issues such as the ongoing wars in Gaza and Ukraine, Prabowo has projected his imminent government's intention to participate in maintaining world peace and order.

In his speech at the Shangri La Dialogue earlier this month, Prabowo highlighted Indonesia's role in maintaining stability and security in Southeast Asia and Indonesia's contribution to collaborative efforts to address global security issues. This week, Prabowo, on behalf of President Jokowi, is attending the Jordan Summit in Amman held to address the protracted violence in Gaza.

A significant shift is imminent at the Foreign Ministry. Civil servants at the ministry must adapt to this new direction from now on and diplomats must acknowledge that Indonesian foreign affairs are no longer solely the purview of career diplomats. Other stakeholders may assume a more prominent role, which may potentially lead to friction within the civil service.

In the last 10 years, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has been a good foreign policy implementor of Indonesia as President Jokowi has not been very involved in managing foreign policy. However, the country needs to change to match its growing economic and political power and influence globally.

Minister Retno, who has worked closely with Prabowo in the cabinet, has prepared all the help that Prabowo's team needs.

Prabowo said before and after the Feb. 14 election that he wanted to adopt the United States model of a National Security Council in charge of regional and global policy.

This newspaper has often suggested restructuring the Foreign Ministry. Since 2002, the ministry has not had a special directorate general in charge of foreign economic affairs. It was added to other directorate general offices. This newspaper also proposed merging the foreign trade desk from the Trade Ministry with the Foreign Ministry.

For sure, President Jokowi's economic-focused diplomacy, which critics say is intended for short-term financial gains, will be replaced by a more global approach from Prabowo, who will combine economic, security and global aspects.

It is also crucial that Prabowo provides a more substantial explanation of his standpoint on the new capital city, Nusantara, to foreign diplomats in Jakarta. It is acceptable when the outgoing defense minister does not provide technical details, but his general view will suffice the curiosity of foreign diplomats about the capital relocation plan because it will directly impact their embassy sites.

It is opportune that Prabowo now provides more detailed explanations of his intentions regarding foreign policy over the next five years.

Source: https://www.thejakartapost.com/opinion/2024/06/11/tell-us-more-prabowo.htm