Jakarta. Following a week of foreign visits President Joko Widodo has returned to Indonesia and given a strong signal he plans to break from his predecessor's a "thousand friends, zero enemies" foreign policy.
The president, fresh from a series of multilateral meetings last week — including APEC in Beijing, the Asean Summit in Myanmar and the G-20 in Australia — told reporters upon arrival in Jakarta on Sunday he would prioritize diplomatic relationships that provided significant benefits for Indonesia.
"Our [foreign] policy is free and active, befriend all countries but [we will put first] those who give the most benefits to the people," Joko said. "What's the point of having many friends but we only get the disadvantages? many friends should bring many benefits."
The comments follow similar sentiment from foreign minister Retno Marsudi last month. Indonesia’s first female foreign minister said “pro-people” diplomacy would be the soul of Indonesia’s foreign policy, a shift in focus from former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s principle of a “thousand friends, zero enemies” — which was translated into the country’s increasing presence and roles in international forums.
Joko said on Sunday Indonesia would still maintain communication with all countries, but would not invest much time in diplomatic relationships that were not beneficial.
"It it's not beneficial, I won't do it," Joko said. "We'll still meet but not too much."
Last week's meetings were the first chance for Joko — a former furniture seller and small-city mayor — to show his diplomatic chops since taking office on Oct. 20.
Joko used his time at the Asean summit to showcase his vision of turning Indonesia, as the world's largest archipelago, into a global "maritime axis". At the G-20 summit in Brisbane at the weekend he again pitched how he would make Indonesia's business climate friendlier for investors by implementing tax reforms and cutting fuel subsidies to pay for infrastructure investment.