Think Tank (2/2024)
Dr Marty Natalegawa
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Navigating Uncertain Internal Political Dynamics and Intensifying Geopolitical Competition
28 Feb 2024

How does the nexus between internal and external political dynamics affect a country’s foreign policy strategy? Dr Marty Natalegawa, RSIS Distinguished Visiting Fellow and former Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, explored this question in a seminar held on 28 February 2024, which was chaired by Professor Mely Caballero-Anthony, head of the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS).

Dr Marty began his remarks by setting the context by which both internal and external political factors become salient in foreign policy. He noted that while domestic and foreign domains are well-delineated in ASEAN (through its principle of non-interference), significant convergences still emerge. He identified both “inside-out” effects such as the recent wave of inward-looking and transactional foreign policies as a result of the “domestication” of foreign policy discourse, and “outside-in” effects exemplified by the external geopolitical environment shaping domestic economic policy preferences.

He continued by tracing how these “inside-out” and “outside-in” effects have driven Indonesia’s foreign policy direction through the years. Dr Marty highlighted three ways “inside-out” effects manifest:

  • through bureaucratic factors, i.e. which ministries have greater influence over policy-setting
  • through idiosyncratic means, e.g. the leadership qualities and predispositions of each Indonesian president
  • by externalizing domestic issues, such as territorial integrity and human rights

On the other hand, the intensifying strategic competition between the US and China and global-scale issues such as climate change that cannot be sufficiently addressed by national solutions alone, are two demonstrations of the “outside-in” effects to Indonesia’s foreign policy.

During the Q&A session that followed, the audience was interested to learn more about the convergence of internal and external dynamics in Indonesian foreign policy and ASEAN regionalism. Many questions revolved around leading Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto’s possible foreign policy direction and on possible pathways to reinforce ASEAN unity in light of divergent national interests and priorities in the South China Sea dispute and Myanmar crisis.

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