Advice for our next leader: Dino Patti Djalal
'We need to push back against anti-foreign sentiment, xenophobia and a siege mentality'
July-September 2014
By: Dr Dino Patti Djalal

What foreign policy advice would you give the new president? For sure, he must get ready for some diplomatic action the moment he takes office, because within a few weeks there will be the APEC Leaders Summit, the G-20, the East Asian Summit and the ASEAN Summit. He will face warm embraces but many leaders will want to measure him, and he must establish his diplomatic credibility early on. When he takes part in these summits as the new kid on the block, so to speak, he must strike the right balance between listening and steady performance.

I would advise the next president to maintain the policy concepts of “a million friends and zero enemies,” the “all directions foreign policy” and “dynamic equilibrium,” all of which I believe will remain relevant to Indonesia. But of course he will need to furnish his own themes. As someone who has been involved in the diaspora movement, I hope the next president will rigorously engage the Indonesian diaspora worldwide, and respect them as our partners and members of Indonesia’s great heritage. I was told that the Indonesia Diaspora Network was due to meet with both candidates.

The next president would also be well advised to develop a geostrategic view, because Indonesia’s geopolitical considerations, after years in hibernation, are again becoming important factors in our foreign policy.

The president must also take great care to maintain our trajectory as a nation, which is really not an easy thing to do. Look around, and you will find that countries that performed well not long ago are now having difficulties. You see this happening in India, Brazil, Argentina, Thailand, Europe and other places. On the other hand, countries that previously were behind Indonesia are doing exceptionally well. Look at the Philippines and Vietnam – they may well surpass us in some areas if we do not maintain our competitiveness.

The next president should also know the limits of our power. Indonesia is a growing power with great potential, but there are limits to what we can do. Our foreign policy budget is modest and so is our military strength. The president should avoid being overambitious, and he must prioritize his policies as early as possible in ways that provide clarity to the foreign ministry and our diplomats abroad. When I served as President Yudhoyono's special staff on foreign policy, we wanted to be active on many fronts, but we also quickly discovered there are limits to what Indonesia can do. For example, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and tensions between North Korea and South Korea. We ended up pursuing a pragmatic, calibrated policy that was commensurate with our means. With the Arab-Israeli conflict, for example, we focused on capacity-building programs for officials with the Palestinian Authority and also on greater diplomatic recognition for the Palestinians in the United Nations system.

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