Indonesia chooses diplomatic methods to mitigate maritime threats

The Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Investments’ Assistant Deputy for Maritime Safety and Security, Basilio Dias Araujo. (Photo: Prive. Doc)

IO – Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Investments’ Assistant Deputy for Maritime Safety and Security Basilio Dias Araujo describes the map for Indonesia’s maritime threats in sessions held with Jakarta Defense Studies and CIDE-PGSD, Universitas Paramadina, in Jakarta, Thursday, (13/08/2020). In the North, Indonesia’s maritime sovereignty faces China’s Silk Road strategy, now called the “Belt and Road initiative” which complements the South China Sea strategy in the North Natuna Sea. In the South, Indonesia’s maritime sovereignty faces off against Australia. Despite our nominal alliance, Australia has frequently stabbed Indonesia in the back. For example, it was involved in the East Timor (Timor Leste) case and has many schemes involving Papua. In the West, Indonesia’s maritime sovereignty faces India’s Look East Policy, which is an initiative of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. “India may seem far away, but it’s actually quite close to Indonesia. Our maritime border in Aceh directly touches Indian waters in the Andaman Sea and Nicobar Island sea,” he said. “In the Pacific Ocean, Indonesia must face the United States’ rebalancing/containment strategy as well as Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy. We need to be aware of these geographic threats so that we can respond with careful, thorough, and measured geo-political strategies. We need to measure our powers carefully and react accordingly.” 

Araujo stated that the primary consideration in managing government strategies, especially in maritime issues, is to be fully aware of our own position in the global strategic gameplay. “We need to be able to see our own position, our own place in the physical map. We need to have an accurate measure of our own strengths and abilities, and we need to be able to project both our economic and political position in both global and regional interactions,” he said. 

Quite a few citizens clamor for Indonesia to take the offensive against China. However, the Government must not be careless. It must have a thorough and well-measured strategy, because any wrong move would threaten Indonesia instead. “What concept are we going to base an offensive against China on? Yes, there was an idea that Indonesia might revive the famous 15th-16th century Nusantara (Archipelago) Spice Route, from the time we had active maritime trade with Asia and Europe. But under the current circumstances, how will we revive this concept?” he said. 

On the contrary, China’s power in the Indian Ocean has a strong concept with equally strong financial backing. There are two approaches taken by countries who want to oppose China’s territorial expansion strategy: the sword (military), or the pen (law). “Big countries generally rely on their military prowess to support their lust for expansion. The most obvious examples are China and the United States,” Araujo said. “On the other hand, small countries prefer to use the legal route. For example, Timor Leste used the law to fight against Australia in the struggle to gain natural resources in the Timor Gap. Likewise, the Philippines and Malaysia both used the law to fight against China. What approach will Indonesia use? We may have the military ability, but it will only cause us to be beaten after a noble fight.” 

Indonesia can undoubtedly use military means, but our current Government prefers peaceful means and diplomacy to mitigate existing threats. It is not unlikely for major countries to help Indonesia, if we choose to react to China’s advances using military means – for their own reasons. “Even now we notice that all major countries have put out a “red carpet” outside of Indonesia’s gates to help us in a faceoff with China should we choose to do so,” Araujo said. “Indonesia may also choose as well to fight China legally like the Philippines did. However, we prefer to use peaceful diplomacy as a solution that would not generate an image of hostility or defeat towards either country.” (Dan)