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Skipping New York Is Bad Policy for Jakarta

When Indonesia’s Joko Widodo visited Ukraine and Russia this summer, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi explained that the president “chosen to try to contribute rather than choose silence.” But now, with the world in jeopardy, he embarrassedly chose silence.

Jokowi, better known as president, has not yet attended the United Nations General Assembly, the annual marquee event for world diplomacy. I am sorry for my absence this year.

Certainly, he is not the only missing leader. China’s President Xi Jinping, like India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, is staying in his home with the party congress coming into office for an unprecedented third term in the coming weeks. Absences are also not uncommon for Jokowi, who has long put domestic policy first, and during his nearly eight years in office, only when pandemic restrictions permitted remote intervention did the United Nations move forward. I’ve been working on meetings.

But this is not a regular meeting. Trust between world powers is declining, the world grappling with multiple crises, most directly with fallout from Russia’s attack on Ukraine, rising fuel and food prices. , and broader threats are hitting emerging economies particularly hard. unstable. Moscow is threatening to torpedo a deal that would allow the flow of grain exports.

It is also happening at a time that could be a turning point in the war. With man and material losses mounting for Russia, China and India, initially embracing what they called pro-Russian neutrality, are beginning to show displeasure.The pressure affects Russian President Vladimir Putin. and is currently struggling to find a way out of this debacle of his own making. Indonesia needs a large and populous fuel import economy to do so, and Indonesia is also influential.

It’s also not been a mediocre year for Jokowi himself, coming closer to the end than the beginning of his tenure and thinking about his legacy. He has chaired the G-20 and will host world leaders in Bali, including Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky, before becoming chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations next year. We plan to host a flag rally. As Mr. Jokowi said last month, Indonesia is “at the pinnacle of global leadership.”

So why isn’t the Indonesian leader in New York?

Jokowi’s aversion to geopolitical theater is well-known, especially when compared to his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and his personal charm has opened the door for him abroad. tended to focus on investment returns. In analyst and former journalist Ben Brand’s book on Indonesian leaders (1), a Jakarta official said: pay them. As Bland, now at Chatham House in London, points out, in today’s Southeast Asian context, an inward-looking approach is not all that uncommon.

Yes, in his early years the president had good reasons to focus on the domestic front — without an elite background or military affiliation, he needed to build a power base. With a second term now being backed by a broader coalition, it was thought it was time to look further afield. it’s not happening. There have been credible efforts, as well as visits to Kyiv and Moscow, but they have largely failed.

And this time, as always, there were domestic reasons for Jokowi to stay. Radityo Dharmaputra, an international relations lecturer at Universitas Airlangga, points to widespread dissatisfaction with the price hikes that sparked the demonstrations in Jakarta and the president’s growing concerns about the end of his term in 2024 and beyond. increase. Local media have surfaced the Vice Presidential position, but he can’t stand it again. After all, continuing disasters in Ukraine only mean bad news at home.

Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country and Southeast Asia’s most populous country, has long fallen under its weight in international politics.This year was the time to start correcting that. More importantly, its foreign policy. has long been based on the idea of ​​bebas-aktif. bebas-aktif is an independent active role in world affairs.

By standing on the sidelines in a moment of global crisis, Jokowi falls short.

Bloomberg Opinion Details:

• Why Putin Can’t Harness The Great Power Of Fascism: Leonid Bersidsky

• Surprise winner as emerging markets collapse: Shuli Ren

• Can Jokowi’s Shuttle Diplomacy Move Russia?: Clara Ferreira Marquez

(1) “Man of Contradiction: Joko Widodo and the Struggle to Rebuild Indonesia,” Ben Brand, Penguin, 2020

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

Clara Ferreira Marquez is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist and editorial board member for foreign affairs and climate. Previously, she worked for Reuters in Hong Kong, Singapore, India, UK, Italy and Russia.

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