Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, a former ambassador to Australia and Vanuatu, said Indonesia needs a stronger branding strategy and closer coordination for its public diplomatic efforts with Australia, emphasizing the importance of greater engagement to sort out differences and misunderstandings between the neighboring countries.(JG Photo/Sheany)
Indonesia's Public Diplomacy Towards Australia Needs Stronger Branding, Coordination
NOVEMBER 05, 2017
Jakarta. Nadjib Riphat Kesoema, a former ambassador to Australia and Vanuatu, said Indonesia needs a stronger branding strategy and closer coordination for its public diplomatic efforts with Australia, emphasizing the importance of greater engagement to sort out differences and misunderstandings between the neighboring countries.
"Indonesia’s public diplomacy needs a more coordinated strategy, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as its coordinator," Nadjib said at the "Indonesian Public Diplomacy Toward Australia" seminar in Jakarta on Friday (03/11).
He urged diplomats to "tell things as they are," and said that "we must never lie in our diplomacy."
According to Riefqi Muna, a researcher on politics at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI), the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s directorate general of information and public diplomacy still needs improvement.
"Even though there’s a public diplomacy division at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, it is not strategically integrated and has yet to operate to its full potential," Riefqi said.
He added that Indonesia’s public diplomacy strategy must be both "comprehensive and integrated," especially amid an increasingly "complex and fluid" situation.
Indonesia and Australia have had their share of ups and downs since the formal establishment of diplomatic relations in 1949.
Throughout the years, the two countries have forged strong partnerships in politics, economy, security and education, but relations have also been tested by unfavorable public opinions, misunderstandings and spats, including the 2013 spying allegations and the Bali Nine case.
Investing in current trends and welcoming new cultures and the latest developments will be crucial as young people, particularly millennials, are likely to play a bigger role in Indonesia’s public diplomacy with Australia.
"We need to pay attention on how policies advanced by formal governments can also reflect the perspectives of the younger generation, because the future of bilateral relations will be strongly linked to them," Riefqi said.
Continuing with existing exchange programs between Indonesian and Australian students, academics and young leaders will be helpful to further develop and strengthen bilateral relations, he added.
Evi Fitriani, head of the Miriam Budiardjo Resource Center (MBRC) at the University of Indonesia, likened Indonesia-Australia relations to roller coasters, saying they have historically been very dependent the countries’ leaders.
"Indonesia-Australia relations under [President] Joko Widodo and [Prime Minister Malcolm] Turnbull have been one of the best, but it was much colder during Tony Abbott’s time," Evi said.
She added that on top of cultural differences, there remains a strong "distrust" between the two countries.
Evi also touched on Islamophobia in Australia, and emphasized that "what they know about Islam is extremely limited, and very much framed by the media."
Muslims only make up a little over 2 percent of Australia’s total population.