Jockeying for Jakarta: Indonesia between Multipolarity and US hegemony
The most consequential of those could be India's apparent full joining of China Containment Coalition ( CCC) led by the US, New Delhi could act as a ''swing state'' and tip the balance of power in favor of the Unipolar world order led by America, it is clear that PM Modi and his BJP party elites are very eager to take the role of strategic balancer against China, the Indians are in full gear to do whatever they can to disrupt Chinese strategic interests and initiatives, the most obvious is their destabilization efforts of China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC), even they have joined US led anti-China efforts in the South China Sea. New Delhi has signed military logistics sharing deal with the US. If there has been any doubt of India's strategic intentions before, this deal clearly gives the answer.
Indonesia's geostrategic location, its growing economy and its over 250 million population should be enough to convince its leadership to aspire for regional leadership and potential great power status. The country sits at the strategic maritime crossroads of the Indian and the Pacific oceans and it will be one of the top five world economies by 2050.Jakarta remarkably adopted a moderate form of Islam, it also has its cherished motto of relatively independent foreign policy (independent and active). Finally, Indonesia is the de facto leader of ASEAN.
Indonseian president, Joko Wododi also known as Jokowi, was a political outsider before his election in 2014. He was supported by former president Megawati Sukarnoputri's party (PDI-P), and he is not one of the traditional conservative political elites, but he is popular among a large portion of Indonesians. During the election campaign, former military general candidate Prabowo's supporters accused him of not being Muslim and of being of Chinese descent, which are both false: he is Javanese Muslim, he got the support of ordinary Indonesians including minorities like Chinese Indonesians and Christians. In fact he is a unifier and he opposes any Islamist leaning policies, The West seemed to support him during his campaign mainly because he promised to open up the economy for foreign investments but they were disappointed when the relative opening of the economy brought more Chinese investments, especially when Jokowi's government granted China, not Japan, the highly contested Jakarta-Bandung high speed railway contract, and when he made a brave decision to execute several drug dealers including two Australians, a decision which Unipolar media both in the West and in Asia harshly criticized and also raised tensions with Australia.
On balance some key steps taken by Jokowi may justify some optimism for the Multipolar order, these include: 1. the decision to grant the high speed railway contract to China despite tough competition from Japan. 2., the brave decision to defy Western pressure and execute drug dealers specially the Australians. 3., the decision to opt out the so called Saudi-led Islamic military coalition and to refuse condemning Iran for alleged terrorism support in the recent Istanbul OIC summit. 4., the recent defense deal with Russia in Sochi which could include Su-35 fighter jets and Kilo-class submarines. 5., the reluctance to join TPP as of now. Those decisions give us a good glimmer of hope that Indonesia could, at least, stay neutral, but make no mistake, this could change quickly because we do not know when pressured enough by the US and its Unipolar media, how Jokowi will react.
Indonesia's strategic culture was originally and anti-imperialist non-aligned, pan-Muslim, pan-Third World, Left leaning, but that relatively changed with the Suharto coup in 1965 who tried hard to create, Anti-communist, anti-China, anti-Soviet, conservative strategic culture with some success in the elite. However after Suharto's fall in 1998, because there was no intense super power competition at the time in East Asia, the anti-Chinese , pro-US conservative strategic culture somehow eased,
The Australian led-US supported invasion of East Timor and attempts of Hybrid wars in Eastern Indonesia with the US fake global war on terror and its invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan proved for the Indonesian elites and its population more importantly, that they face direct threat from imperialist America and its Australian pawn. The occupation of East Timor by Australia and the subsequent secession of that region was a national humiliation for Indonesia, even Canberra threatened to bomb Jakarta and other major cities if Indonesia did not withdraw from East Timor. It is safe to assume that strategic and security Javanese elites in Jakarta see Australia, with Western support, to be their main strategic threat especially to their eastern regions, that has been the case since the independence and Konfrontasi war.
Multipolar leading states's policy on Indonesia
Indonesia and China do not have official territorial disputes, but it also seems that Natuna islands's EEZ and Chinese nine dashline overlap. If that is true , then I think that is the single most problematic issue that leading Multipolar states face, this issue should be solved for the sake of Multipolarity. China should recognize that larger geopolitical goal of Multipolarity trumps claimed fishing rights in the high seas ( no strategically thinking state wants stray fishermen to poison its relations with a country the Unipolar and hostile US is competing for interest in). Fortunately though, there is no actual island dispute between Jakarta and Beijing, and high seas EEZ rights could be solved easily if there is genuine desire from both sides.
It seems, unlike the Russians, that the contemporary Chinese polity (since the fall of Qing dynasty), has little great power experience. Their handling of issues and diplomatic conduct seem to be typical middle sized country, their diplomatic capacity and depth does not seem impressive, even their strategic thinking does not appear to be commensurate to their rising great power status. If that is the case, then China should improve its way of handling sensitive disputes and its diplomatic conduct specially with those countries who are not formal allies of the US or are ''contested/neutral" like Indonesia. That does not mean China should concede its rights in the larger South China Sea dispute but in this particular case with Indonesia there must be innovative ways to solve any misunderstanding or claims between Jakarta and Beijing. Russia could help them in this regard. The Russians can play a key role in easing any misunderstanding between China and Indonesia for the betterment of Multipolarity. There is no known Indonesian threat misperceptions of Russia and that will help Moscow to be an honest broker between Beijing and Jakarta. China itself should go to great lengths to assuage any misconceptions of the ''China threat" that Indonesian government, elites or population have which is mainly created and fueled by Unipolar media and the West. That will be good for Multipolarity and for China itself.
China and Russia should help the Jokowi government to realize its priority goals of economic/infrastructure development and military modernization. There should be general coordination between China and Russia toward Indonesia, in doing so, they will maximize the chance that Indonesia will embrace Muliipolarity for its own strategic interests. Even if it stays neutral, that will be good for the Multipolar initiative. On the economic front, Indonesia badly needs foreign investments to upgrade its poor infrastructure and China appears to be willing to help in that regard. Beijing has started increasing its investments and infrastructure projects in Indonesia, that trend should continue. Chinese president Xi Jinping tipped Indonesia as the hub of his OBOR initiative. In fact, he initiated OBOR's maritime component in Indonesia itself in 2013. Moreover, Xi proposed that OBOR and Jokowi's Global Maritime Fulcrum strategy should complement each other. It appears Xi fully understands the strategic importance of improving Sino-Indonesain relations and he is committed to that end.
The Indonesian army is suffering from lack of modern military hardware, last year an F16 fighter jet caught fire when preparing for security patrol of Asian African Summit in Indonesia, in an other incident, a C-130 military plane crashed and killed dozens in Medan in the earlier year. These incidents became embarrassments for the military and the defense minister ordered a complete review of the weapons acquisition mechanism. The US has not given the Indonesian army what it needs, they only gave old second hand F-16s.
Indonesia should reciprocate Chinese and Russian support for its economic development, military modernization and great power aspiration, with the following: First Indonesia should never join US led anti-China CCC or any US led anti-Russian activities. Second, Indonesia should secure Mallaca and other Indonesian straits as neutral water ways even during potential conflict or war in the region. Third, Jakarta should not join TTP if China and Russia are excluded. Jokowi can deflect US demands to join TPP because it seems majority of Indonesian parliament oppose such agreement. Fourth, Indonesia could also embrace Multipolarity since that is its strategic interest. Fifth. Indonesia should continue to be the beacon of moderate Islam, religious tolerance, cultural diversity.
In the 21st century, because there is no ideological dividing line, the emerging great geopolitical game between Multipolar forces and US hegemonic Unipolar order, will mostly depend on two pillars: 1. economic interdependence ( geo-economics) and, 2. diplomatic acumen - with that in mind Russia and China should engage proactive, creative and substantive diplomacy with Indonesia and all other countries like it, they should recognize its concerns and needs and then frame a coordinated and calibrated strategy they should capitalize on opportunities and mitigate challenges. If Russia and China are to challenge US global hegemony for good strategic reasons, their diplomatic capacity and creativity will be a key factor. At end of the day it is the Indonesians who will decide their country's path, but Russia and China can help them realize their country's potential to become an independent and active global pole in a Multipolar, Multi-civilizational world, not a satellite second-rate ally of the US.