A few interesting stories on Indonesia’s next foreign minister this week.
First off, The Jakarta Globe ran a story essentially arguing that current foreign minister Marty Natalegawa should remain in his post when Jokowi announces his cabinet lineup in October.
That Marty is a frontrunner is no surprise. Many credited him with maintaining, if not raising, Indonesia’s regional and global profile under president Yudhoyono. A recent poll conducted by the Jokowi Center, a volunteer network, puts Marty as the most popular candidate for the post under Jokowi’s first term.
But today, in an op-ed for The Jakarta Post, former Ambassador to Switzerland and PAN lawmaker Djoko Susilo argued that the foreign ministry’s institutional development has been in decline under Marty’s tenure. The article also gave an insider’s perspective on the bureaucratic challenges running a foreign ministry with global ambitions supporter by a budget of only around $550 million (for details on the foreign ministry reform under Marty’s predecessor, Hassan Wirajuda, see Greta Nabbs-Keller’s paper)
Meanwhile, current deputy foreign minister Dino Patti Djalal (former ambassador to the US and presidential candidate hopeful), said today that he would be willing to serve as foreign minister “if the Republic calls me.”
Aside from these two names, there are other candidates swirling around the Jakarta rumor mill.
In the last two weeks, there have been reports circulating that Indonesia is now officially standing up against China’s claims in the South China Sea.
Two days ago, Ann Marie Murphy wrote for the Pacific Forum PacNet newsletter that “Indonesia formally announces its dispute with China in the South China Sea”. She claims that, “Indonesian officials on March 12, 2014 announced that China’s nine-dash line map outlining its claim in the South China Sea overlaps with Indonesia’s Riau province, which includes the Natuna Island chain,” in a sign of a “significant policy shift.”
As she did not provide the source of this announcement, I can only speculate or assume that the source came from a piece authored by Zachary Keck The Diplomat ran a few weeks ago claiming that China has started a new “maritime dispute” with Indonesia.
Keck used a news report that cited Indonesian navy commodore Fahru Zaini, an assistant to the first deputy of the Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal, and Security Affairs (Menkopolhukam):
China has claimed Natuna waters as their territorial waters. This arbitrary claim is related to the dispute over Spratly and Paracel Islands between China and the Philippines. This dispute will have a large impact on the security of Natuna waters…[because] China has drawn the sea map of Natuna Islands in the South China Sea in its territorial map with nine dash lines.
Others have also picked up on his statement (see The Jakarta Globe, for example).
This alleged ‘dispute’ then is somehow seen as potentially problematic because, as Keck also suggested, Indonesia is beefing up its military presence and infrastructure in the area.
The overall impression therefore is that Indonesia’s defense modernization and deployment plans are somehow driven by China’s assertiveness in the South China Sea, and that now Jakarta has officially staked out its policy to challenge Beijing.
This impression is false for several reasons. Continue reading