20 January 2015
Despite some adverse comments, President Joko Widodo is not about to drastically change Indonesia’s “free and active foreign policy”. What may change during his tenure is the emphasis, orientation and strategy. His challenge is how to execute his foreign policy without losing friends. Jokowi should start calling on his ASEAN counterparts to continue the traditional regional diplomacy.
Outwardly President Joko Widodo’s policy of burning and sinking fishing vessels from friendly states for illegal fishing gives the impression that he cares less for regional diplomacy. His policy is a stark contrast to his predecessor President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s policy of “a million friends and zero enemies”. Yudhoyono has assiduously courted many friends over the last decade. In less than one hundred days, his successor, however, seems bent on leaving behind a different legacy.
Although the action of burning fishing vessels is essentially a domestic matter, it has foreign policy implications. For states which have signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with Indonesia on how to treat wayward fishermen, especially in disputed maritime space (such as with Malaysia), the action has ruffled diplomatic feathers as it breaches international norms and possibly the ethics of modern-day diplomacy.
…B. A. Hamzah is a Senior Lecturer with the Department of Strategic Studies, National Defence University of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. The views are personal. He contributed this specially to RSIS Commentary.
RSIS / Online
Last updated on 21/01/2015