Moderate Islamic Identity as Indonesia’s Foreign Policy

Oleh: Akhmad Jenggis Prabowo

The principle of Indonesia’s foreign policy that was concept by vice president of Indonesia Muhammad Hatta, had a meaning reflected about one’s own accord to be autonomous in international interaction. Furthermore, he did not want Indonesia become an object within international phenomenon. Indonesia must be a subject that can determine its policy. The principle of freedom and active (in context cold war) has a meaning that Indonesia does not bounded in one block even east or west, Indonesia has policy to do what accordance its foreign policy.

But practically, this foreign policy was not easy as to apply it in international interaction. There are so many dynamic in international interaction than become Indonesia was loose. As we know that in Sukarno’s era, the Indonesia’s foreign policy tends to communism countries such as China, and Soviet Union. Then in Suharto’s era, the purpose of Indonesia’s policy was changed. Along with the Indonesia economic was in poor condition post Sukarno’s era, Indonesia’s diplomacy walked into Development Diplomacy than near to U.S. in order gaining the economic assistance after Cold War era, the relevant of Indonesia’s foreign policy has challenged.

Behind Habibie, Gus Dur, Megawati and Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), the principle of foreign policy freedom and active become an orientation to formulate Indonesia’s foreign policy. This principle that firstly has orientation as basic in the middle of bipolarity international system recently is understood as freedom to choose and active in participation within world peace.

Since the attack of World Trade Center and Pentagon in U.S. September 11, 2001, international world was faced the challenge to settle the terrorism. U.S. as a victim of that attack then strives to do inter-subjectivity discourse by spreading idea or concept against terrorism. From this terrorism, U.S. then gives big attention toward Islamic world as territory of terrorism movement. 

Indonesia that majority of its society is Muslim; take the occasion as role between West world and Islam. This thing has orientation to strengthen the image of Indonesian in International interaction. The identity of Indonesia as Moderate Islamic Nation, should to be key factor in this international community. But what was happened is not appropriate with the main destination.

This paper attempts to describe the Indonesian foreign policy as a Moderate Islamic Country in international interaction. By using the total diplomacy and constructivist approach, this paper tries to explain why the moderate-Islamic identity of Indonesian foreign policy failed to raise Indonesia image in the international world.

National Capability 

When Indonesia has found the political domestic framework that permanently, Indonesian has a national capability as a basic of foreign policy that solid and sustainable. Jemadu wrote that Indonesian’s foreign policy and national capability cannot be separated, because it is one unit that walked together. The phenomenon since Sukarno until SBY’s era, Indonesian has different national capability according the government. But the important one, most of society in Indonesia is Muslim. 

When talking about the concept of total diplomacy, it explains about the entire of potency and national element even governmental institution or nongovernmental institution to take a part in fighting for national interest within economic or global politics.

Sometime Indonesia with the larger Muslim society do not realize about the condition. Because the pressure of the big countries; Indonesia put aside the society. The situation then foreign policy was not responsive with the aspiration of civil society in order making the foreign policy in accordance of democratization process.

Constructivism is one of view that sees the social world is result of human creation inside it. Also the humankind inside is created from the social interaction that built among them. In other word, humankind creates the society and society creates the humankind, the sustainable process that happened in two sides. Beside of it, constructivism is also one inter-subjective concept toward the identity building process and endogenous interest building in its interaction. 

Inter-subjective means the civil building contained of individuals that constructed according to its situation, and was implicated to individual attitude as agent and will be more complex toward the governmental institution within international politics. This thing was contrary with the rationalism thought that said everything was happened by natural or given and emerge exogenous.

Indonesian’s Foreign Policy in International World

The formulation of foreign policy is reflection of domestic condition and also influenced by international interaction that was happened. One of the models to make policy is the perception about the adaptive model. According to this model, foreign policy is consequence from changing that was happened in external environment and internal environment. Within this model, all country viewed as entities that usually do adaptation toward its environment.

If we see the Indonesian’s foreign policy, according to total diplomacy was need coordination effectively so that it cannot be happened the benefit within interest achievement. In Suharto’s era, the Indonesian’s foreign policy was reflected by Pancasila, it means he showed the diversity of society in Indonesia. And this concept is one thing that immediately formulated by Indonesian’s society. Also this is showed to international community that Indonesia is autonomous.

Although the Indonesian’s foreign policy have not an Islamic characters, but the policy formulation of Indonesian always not be in contradiction to Indonesian’ society that most of them Muslim. Then the creation of domestic norms also supports the formulation of Indonesian’s foreign policy.

But when the strategic values belong to Indonesia to settle communism was decrease, followed also the international political agenda in West Countries change from security issues into economical issues also to promote the democracy, human rights, environment sustainable, etc. Suharto government was failed and step by step apparently its nastiness, because of normative structural in Indonesian society was contrast to government normative, then Indonesian begins to fall.

After that, a democracy value was developed then this will be basic of the creation Islamic Moderate Identity of Indonesian. This is become one of evidence in the societal constructivism when discuss about foreign policy formulation is influenced by the norm that spread in domestic territory that done by public opinion, law system, political party, and the others. It can be concluded that foreign policy according to constructivism influenced by shared norms afterwards become perception to formulate the foreign policy.

The successful of Indonesian’s foreign policy that was freedom and active, it was virtually because the successful of Indonesian in international system that was bipolar. It cannot be in disagreement that concepted by Hatta is to challenge the reaction of international bipolarity system. When the Indonesian’s foreign policy was being done knowledgeable practices by Indonesian diplomats such as Sultan Hamengkubuwono IX and Adam Malik toward big countries that to gain the economic assistance, so the interests of those countries become important. This thing was because the context of World War strives to do containment policy. So that in New Order era, the bargaining position of Indonesia can be talked is strong.

The emerging of 21st century has changed the international interaction in world. The Islamic revival in this new era also has given the different situation. This is give the interaction between the West and Islam countries and make all Muslim realize with its underdeveloped civilization. By this awareness, some of Islamic countries make the different policy toward to the West and make bargaining position. U.S. also give the prepositions especially to Islamic states; U.S. do not want seen unfriendly with Islamic states, U.S. is not supported fully the Islamic movement if not given advantages, and last, there is such as unbelief that democracy cannot walk together with Islam.

Terrorism that constructed by U.S. has given distinguish system to international interaction. The image that terrorism mostly lived in Islamic states has realized Indonesia toward the Moderate Islamic identity. Indonesia with the largest Muslim population has become one interest toward of U.S. It can help to settle the terrorism and prevent Indonesia from fundamentalist Islamic movement. In conclusion, it gives formulation foreign policy to support terrorism settlement.

Indonesian’s government under Megawati then achieve to use democracy can be applied in majority Muslim population such as Indonesia. By this Moderate Islamic identity, Indonesia wants to propose democracy in Islamic world. But why there are some portions loose with this identity? Why the condition appears Indonesian’s foreign policy is not capable to solve the foreign problem (U.S.’s pressure) to Indonesia?

There are some things that can explain why the Indonesian’s identity as a Islamic Moderate state cannot give position with Indonesian’s interest:

First, Islam in formulation of Indonesian’s foreign policy is never to be main priority. It can be seen that Islamic Moderate just become a form or shape, and has not become substance and basic value in Indonesian’s foreign policy.

Second, according to failure of Indonesian in position its interest toward other countries, because Indonesian’s foreign policy has not specific purposes. As example, terrorism case is one issues that brought by U.S. and also smoke that happened in Malaysian is settled when it was happened but afterwards was forgotten. Indonesia just only do the image diplomacy, not far than that and this is cannot finish the crisis, such as in Middle East.

Third, it emerge the question in domestic level that giving the pressure to government. Is Islamic Moderate will effective representing the real condition of Islamic society? As we know that beside Islam there are another religion such as Buddha, Christian, Catholic, Hindu and others. The norms relating to Indonesian before were problematized as consequence achievement of foreign policy that cannot give the prosperity.

Identity as basic of national interest, in foreign policy it can be seen that state interaction related to international environment and its external. Foreign policy is influenced by spreading of norms even in international level or domestic level.


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