Advice for our next leader: Juwono Sudarsono
'Good foreign policy starts at home'
July-September 2014
By: Juwono Sudarsono

One of the less-remembered facts from the heady days of democratic elections and a new government in 1999 is that Indonesia saw a civilian appointed as the country’s defense minister for the first time. Juwono Sudarsono was a catalyst for civilian supremacy over the Armed Forces, nudging the military to give up its business and political interests, and dramatically increasing defense spending to create a modern and professional fighting force.

Strategic Review spoke with Juwono about the defense and security concerns that will face Indonesia’s next president. He said the nation’s next major defense challenges, aside from growing great-power competition in the Asia-Pacific, will stem from pressing domestic problems including income inequality and poverty.

Future moves by China in the South China Sea could encroach on Indonesian territory under the logic of the nine-dash line China follows in the sea. Does the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI) have to revise its strategic planning under the next administration? So far, China has no reason to encroach on the Natuna Islands. But the Indonesian military may have to yield and temporarily tolerate the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy asserting itself near Indonesian territorial waters off Natuna, as long as Indonesia makes it clear that it will not indefinitely tolerate China's desire to widen its “strategic space” within disputed territorial waters.

Our strategic plan remains the same: calibrate Beijing’s desire to widen its “strategic space” within the core area of China’s regional posture, but firmly assert our stance that current international law and legal norms must be respected.

The United States is seeking greater defense cooperation among countries in Southeast Asia. How should the next Indonesian government respond? Is it still possible to remain strictly neutral? The US has remained the main security provider throughout East Asia and the Pacific for the past seven decades, dating back to 1945. Now, the rise of China and the presence of Japan has prompted many members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to since 2006 to redefine the terms and conditions of Southeast Asian defense and security through the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting.

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