Jakarta. Diplomatic efforts under President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo have garnered Indonesia more visibility and strengthened the Southeast Asian country’s leadership on international platforms, with recent foreign policy highlights including humanitarian diplomacy with Myanmar and Bangladesh on the ongoing crisis in Rakhine State, support for Palestinian independence and protection of Indonesians abroad.
"Indonesia did not choose to sit tight and shout, but instead used its diplomacy [in Rakhine State] with the purpose of helping all the victims and prevent the situation from escalating further," Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said during a press briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs office in Jakarta on Thursday (26/10).
On Aug. 25, attacks by insurgents on a military post triggered a violent crackdown by Myanmar security forces, and has led to more than half a million Rohingya fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.
Since the outbreak of violence in the troubled region, Indonesia was the first foreign country that was allowed to enter Myanmar and has taken an active role to address the humanitarian crisis.
This includes providing humanitarian aid in partnership with the Myanmar government and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as meetings with officials from both Myanmar and Bangladesh, including state counselor and Myanmar's de facto leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as well as Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The crisis in Rakhine State has prompted massive international responses and criticisms from various human rights group including the United Nations, that has described the situation as "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing."
Steadfast Support for Palestine
At the press briefing, Retno also reaffirmed Indonesia’s continued support for Palestinian independence.
"We will continue to offer our support to the Palestinians in their fight for independence. Supporting Palestine has always been at the heart of Indonesia’s foreign policy," Retno said.
In 2016, Indonesia opened its consulate-general in Ramallah, Palestine’s de facto capital.
The issue of Palestine has consistently been brought up by Indonesian officials in bilateral and multilateral settings, most recently during Retno’s meeting with Jordan’s King Abdullah II earlier this month.
Protecting Indonesians Abroad
The foreign minister also touched on the country’s efforts in protecting Indonesians abroad during her address.
"Our focus on protecting Indonesians abroad has been through strengthening our working system by utilizing data technology and innovation, integrating our databases as well as launching mobile applications – such as Safe Travel – and improving overall services and the quality of protection itself," Retno said.
In January, the Foreign Affairs Ministry launched the "Safe Travel" app, which provides Indonesians with quick assistance in cases of emergencies.
Between 2014 and 2017, Indonesia has managed to resolve more than 27,000 cases involving Indonesians living abroad, evacuated more than 16,000 from disaster and conflict areas and repatriated over 180,000 Indonesians, including those who overstayed their visas.
Indonesia’s active foreign policy is an example of the country’s strategic approach to strengthen its leadership on various platforms, especially during its run to win a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the 2019-20 period.
The United Nations secretary general Antonio Guterres has expressed his appreciation toward Indonesia’s contribution in preserving global peace and stability, according to a statement released by the Foreign Affairs Ministry in September, following his meeting with Retno.
Indonesia has not limited its activities to the framework of the UN, but also through other multilateral mechanisms, including the Group of 20, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
The country’s expanding diplomacy has also seen bilateral relations strengthened with countries from Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe.