Saturday, March 26, 2016

Jokowi: the trials of navigating through oligarchy.

Jokowi: the trials of navigating through oligarchy.

By Vedi Hadiz                

In July 2014, after Indonesia’s presidential election, Richard Robison and I anticipated that Joko Widodo (“Jokowi”) would have a hard time (link is external) delivering on the simultaneously populist and reformist rhetoric of his campaign. We thought that he faced an uphill battle dealing with the powerful vested interests that have continued to dominate Indonesia’s politics and economy since the New Order. We certainly did not entertain the idea that Jokowi’s victory represented a major break with the past.

Instead, we envisaged that he would have to operate within a system of power where public authority and private wealth had long been fused, handicapped by the fact that he had no political party or machinery to call his own. The problem-ridden presidency of Jokowi so far seems to have confirmed what we expected.


The sense of optimism that greeted Jokowi’s victory was largely based on his status as a political outsider who had demonstrated competence at lower levels of government. Untainted by corruption scandals, he was the first president since the fall of Soeharto who could be considered a genuine product of the democratic era. But with Jokowi’s image as a “man of the people”, we may forget that his personal trajectory illustrates quite starkly that local political and business elites have been the greatest beneficiaries of Indonesian democratisation and decentralisation. Whether they are able to change the rules of the game – or have any interest in doing so – is another question.

Still, it was valid to greet Jokowi’s victory with relief given the authoritarian inclinations and brutal past of his then rival. Prabowo Subianto’s critics were correct that his election would have made a mockery of the ideals of reformasi (the reform movement), no matter how frustratingly unfulfilled they remain.

It is no secret that Prabowo appealed to many who were exasperated with the dysfunctions of government after 1998 and yearned for the stability and predictability associated with the rule of his former father-in-law. Though Jokowi’s emergence as a national leader reflected the same exasperation, his victory affirmed the legitimacy of the decentralised democratic system that had produced him. Nevertheless, his effectiveness as president was always going to require adroit navigation through the notoriously fluid alliances of Indonesian politics. Fortunately, such adeptness was how he skyrocketed to the position in the first place.

The Problem

And here lies the problem: Jokowi’s remarkable rise was made possible by a democratic and decentralised political system in which negotiation, including with old vested interests, was necessary for advancement. But now that he has advanced all the way to the presidency, he has found that he has few bargaining chips to use in negotiations with oligarchic power.

Jokowi has always had to bank on his own personal popularity. But this popularity hinges on a reputation for honesty and getting things done – a combination that retains some of its attractiveness because it is so hard to associate with many of his political contemporaries. Nonetheless, it was always going to be difficult for Jokowi to maintain popularity unless he delivered on his promises – no matter how vaguely articulated.

It has been difficult for Jokowi to sustain the image of a “can-do” man that he enjoyed as mayor of Solo, and to some extent, as governor of Jakarta. Though he hasn’t lost the common touch, his trademark forays into neighbourhoods and markets have become tiresome without concrete policy outcomes. If he cannot deliver tangible achievements, especially in the economic field, Jokowi will lose popularity, and will be in a weaker position in the face of entrenched interests. In turn, his presidency would then be less effective – and so it could go on. For falling short of expectations, comparisons with another once hopeful reformer, Barack Obama, easily come to mind.

Jokowi’s election campaign was notable for the network of volunteers it was able to deploy, giving the misleading impression of a solid base of grassroots support, if not organisation. While many of these networks were no doubt made up of those with genuine intentions of reform, others were activated by allies situated at or near the heart of oligarchic power, with whom deals had been made.

These volunteers were in no way a substitute for a cohesive political machinery over which he could assume control. Instead Jokowi was – and continues to be – largely dependent on the patronage of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P), led by its curmudgeonly matriarch, Megawati Soekarnoputri. Jokowi’s first cabinet was therefore predictably filled by the usual party hacks, given the need to shore up support in the legislature for any policy endeavour. The wheeling and dealing behind cabinet reshuffles – one occurring last year and another apparently impending – provide tragicomical insight into what is demanded of governing from a position of weakness.

Waning Populism

It should be noted that Jokowi has a reputation for being an economic populist – a label that alarms those with unbending faith in the market. But his economic populism is rather mild. This is perhaps a reflection of the lack of an independent political machinery similar to those built by populists in Latin America – Alberto Fujimori in Peru, Hugo Chavez in Venezuela or Lulz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil.

To make a geographically closer comparison, Jokowi is not what Thaksin Shinawatra used to be in Thailand – a super wealthy tycoon with his own party. Thaksin agitated elites by embarking on a “new social contract”, which involved mobilising the poor by catering to their health and welfare needs. In contrast, there are limits to how far Jokowi’s economic populism can go.

One of these limits is material. Jokowi quickly realised that to achieve his healthcare and welfare reforms he would need to restructure a national budget where most outlays were for routine expenditures and fuel subsidies. To his credit, he managed to reduce subsidies – at some cost to his personal popularity – to fund social spending, including his signature healthcare program. Much needed support for infrastructural projects also appeared. But achieving desired tax revenue increases to make up for a decline in resources-linked income will be tough. Of course, he faces another gargantuan problem in a corrupt bureaucracy accustomed to siphoning off the public coffers.

What has filled the void left by the waning of Jokowi’s economic populist aspirations? For the most part, as seen in the recent Freeport contract fiasco, and battles for control over the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK), it is dirty business and politics as usual.

Vedi Hadiz is Professor of Asian Studies at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. His latest book is Islamic Populism in Indonesia and the Middle East (Cambridge University Press, 2016).
This post is an updated version of a presentation given at the “Who is benefiting from Jokowi’s economic policies?” seminar organised by the Asia Institute and the Indonesia Forum. A video of the full seminar can be viewed here (link is external).

Visa-free entry to Bali should be just the beginning.

By Ross B. Taylor AM

After a number of false starts and an even greater amount of flip-flopping, Indonesia has finally granted Australians visa-free entry into Bali.

For the almost one million Aussies who flock to our favourite island paradise each year, the removal of the Visa-on-Arrival (VoA) requirement will not only mean faster and easier processing times at Bali’s International Airport, but also save a family of four A$45.00 each in Visa fees. Overall, Australians will save $45 million per year a as a result of this decision, and Indonesian authorities are banking on at least some of these Aussie dollars being spend in the bars, cafes and theme parks around Bali.

This is a relatively rare good news story about Australia-Indonesia relations that has, for too many years, been based upon what goes wrong between two neighbours who embrace quite different cultures.

There is no doubt that the removal of the VoA requirement was helped enormously by the goodwill generated during Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s short visit to Jakarta last year. President Joko Widodo warmed to our new PM. The pictures of an Australian Prime Minister walking side-by-side with Indonesia’s conservative President, through a local market minus their suits and ties, was a smash-hit on social media throughout the archipelago. Not since the Keating days have we seen such a warm response to an Australian Leader. So how do we build on this good re-start?

During the past ten years politicians and public servants have acknowledged that the bi-lateral relationship lacks ‘ballast’ and that business is ‘underdone’. Nice words but nothing changed. My good friends Professor Colin Brown once told me that, "... whilst it is good to aspire to adding ballast to a relationship, the problem is that whilst ballast stops the ship from sinking, it doesn’t really take it anywhere." Welcome to Australia-Indonesia relations.

In recent weeks however, there are some very positive signs emerging that perhaps suggests finally we can move to build a truly closer connection with our giant neighbour and home to the World’s largest Muslim population. And the granting of visa-free entry to Bali for Australians should be seen as just the start.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop officially opened Australia's new embassy in Jakarta last week and a new consulate was opened in the Sulawesi capital of Makassar, further enhancing ties between the two nations. Australia’s Trade Minister Steve Ciobo seized the opportunity when he met with Indonesia’s new – and Western educated – Trade Minister, Thomas Lembong two weeks ago, suggesting that more Indonesians should come to Australia for temporary work within the services and hospitality sector. A great idea.

Young Indonesians working at our cafes would start the process of building close relations and understanding between our two countries; it certainly is needed. It is very common in most Australian cities these days to be served coffee by a young waiter from Brazil or Ireland, or anywhere in Europe for that matter. These young people come here under a Holiday-Work visa program that seeks to provide young people from overseas the opportunity to see Australia whilst being able to work temporarily to fund their travels around our big and amazing country.

But where are the young Indonesians? We see them in Bali and we know how polite, efficient and professional they are, but they are not coming here.

Three years ago Australia increased the number of young people from Indonesia who could access the holiday-work scheme from 500 to 1,000 per year. In 2014-2015 only 377 young people took-up the opportunity. Why? Because we simply make it too hard. How many young Australians have a ‘lazy’ $6,500 sitting in the bank, yet alone young Indonesians? Yet that is what we demand before a young person can even apply to visit us. And to make it almost impossible, we then demand they obtain a formal letter from their Ministry of Manpower approving their ‘appropriateness’ to be allowed in Australia.

Young people won’t waste their time, and this is a real lost-opportunity for both countries in terms of getting to really know each other.

Meanwhile, we happily accept Indonesia’s offer of visa-free entry into Bali, but still insist that Indonesians wanting to come to Australia for holidays and tourism must pay a non-refundable fee of $130.00 each just to apply for a visa. The actual forms consists of 15 pages of questions and no online options are available as yet. Maybe this is why last year only 55,000 Indonesian citizens came to Australia (for tourism purposes) compared to over 150,000 from both Singapore and Malaysia.

As our economy struggles following the end of the resources boom, tourism presents a huge opportunity for Australia, and Indonesia – only four-five hours away – with its middle-class population approaching 100 million is ready to travel. We need to welcome them and make it cheaper and easier for them to come here, spend their money and get to know us.

It’s time for Australia to take a far more mature view of our near neighbour; to open-up our minds to welcome Indonesians as friends and partners. Sure, they may not play cricket or footy, but they are mostly good people and do not serve to be rated alongside Russians and Egyptians as the most untrustworthy people we know.

The settings are now in place thanks to the Turnbull government. Now it’s up to all of us to finally reach out to our neighbours, get to know them better, and to look beyond just Bali.

Ross B. Taylor is the President of the Perth-based Indonesia Institute Inc.

Indonesian Sovereignty Challenged by China?

By Jarryd de Haan Luke, Future Directions Interternational


Indonesian Minster of Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Susi Pudjiasti summoned the Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia to discuss a recent maritime incident off the coast of Natuna Islands. According to Ms Susi, Indonesia was attempting to detain a Chinese vessel which was spotted fishing illegally near the islands. Indonesian officials managed to board the ship as it fled towards the South China Sea, arresting a total of eight crew members, but were interrupted when a Chinese Coast Guard ship intervened and reportedly “rammed” the vessel, pushing it into the South China Sea. A representative from China’s Foreign Ministry, on the other hand, told Reuters that the trawler was carrying out normal activities in traditional Chinese fishing grounds and was attacked and harassed by an armed Indonesian ship. China has also demanded the immediate release of the detained fishermen who are being held for questioning by the Indonesian authorities.
At the centre of the incident is the South China Sea dispute and it is telling that the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson called the location of the incident ‘traditional Chinese fishing grounds’, despite the Indonesian statement that the incident took place just over four kilometres off the coast of the Natuna islands, Indonesian territory that is well within Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). This will heighten Indonesian concerns over China’s claims in the region and whether or not those claims directly threaten the Indonesian EEZ.
South China Sea
As noted in a previous FDI Strategic Analysis Paper, one of Jakarta’s primary objectives is safeguarding the maritime resources within the bounds of its EEZ. Threats to those resources could provoke Indonesia into abandoning its traditional mediatory role in the South China Sea dispute and adopting a tougher stance against China, as when, in November 2015, Jakarta threatened to take Beijing to the International Criminal Court.
The likelihood that this incident will escalate any further, however, is unlikely. Indonesia already showed restraint during the boarding and, according to Ms Susi ‘We want to avoid a much more serious incident, so we settled on just arresting the eight crew members. The ship got away but we have the eight men in custody to help us investigate this incident’. Chinese Embassy spokesman Xu Hangtian has also warned Indonesia to exercise caution, saying, ‘It is hoped that the Indonesian side could properly handle this issue, taking into consideration the overall picture of our bilateral relations’. China is funding one of Indonesia’s largest infrastructure projects, the Jakarta-Bandung railway. This may be a reason for Jakarta to exercise caution in its dealings with Beijing, but at the same time, China is in no position to endanger relations with Indonesia.
In its bid to fund the Jakarta-Bandung railway, Beijing was willing to take financial risks to secure the contract. Unlike the bid from Japan, China agreed to waive any funding guarantees from the Indonesian Government reflecting its eagerness to realise the “One Belt One Road” (OBOR) strategy under the New Silk Road initiative.
Through the OBOR strategy, China seeks to extend its influence throughout Asia by the use of soft power and damaging its relationship with one of the major emerging economies in south-east Asia will do little to further China’s ambitions.
While this incident is not indicative of any dramatic deterioration in the Indonesia-China relationship, it does reflect the, at times, difficult nature of the relationship, in which diplomacy has not always been a strong point. Indonesia has often complained about the lack of clarity of China’s “nine-dash line” in relation to the Natuna Islands. These latest difficulties aside, it is important for both countries that a healthy economic partnership continues to anchor the relationship.
Any opinions or views expressed in this paper are those of the individual author, unless stated to be those of Future Directions International.

Published with the permission of  Future Directions International Pty Ltd.
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The Indo-Russian Relationship: Old Imperatives, New Beginnings


                            By Lindsay Hughes, Research Analyst, Indian Ocean Research                           
Key Points
  • The India-Russia relationship was born of mutual necessity.
  • It flourished for a long period during which India received technology transfers and political and economic support but soon became predicated upon defence sales and collaborations.
  • Towards the end of the first decade of this century, however, the relationship began to deteriorate and even bordered on becoming hostile.
  • Recognising their mutual need for each other’s support, however, the leaders of the two countries have sought to renew the relationship.
Between 2011 and 2014, the United States overtook Russia as India’s largest supplier of weapons systems. Due in most part to its poor defence manufacturing base, India has become the world’s largest importer of defence products, importing an estimated 65 per cent of its military hardware. While Russia supplied India with an estimated US$40 billion worth of military materiel between the 1960s and 2011, the US has sold arms and equipment estimated at approximately US$4.75 billion between 2011 and 2014. Russia was its second-largest supplier with US$3.7 billion, followed by France with US$1.75 billion and Israel with approximately US$500 million (all US dollar figures at 2016 conversion rates; note also that no attempt has been made to correlate, for example, the 1960s dollar values with their equivalent 2016 values). Any attempt to view the relationship between India and Russia purely in terms of the defence materiel bought and sold will, however, prove short-sighted since the relationship extends well past a mere buyer-seller arrangement.
The Indo-Russian relationship really began in 1962. In that year, China, probably provoked by the misguided “Forward Policy” of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, invaded India, overrunning Indian defences in its north-east. Nehru turned in desperation to the United States to supply it with aircraft and other materiel. Describing the situation as desperate, he requested the despatch of a minimum of twelve squadrons of supersonic all-weather fighter aircraft and radar equipment to be used against the Chinese forces. Probably seeking to draw the US into the conflict, he informed President John F. Kennedy that American personnel would be required to operate the aircraft and radar installations until Indian personnel had been trained in their use. If necessary, he suggested, the US would need to make available aircraft flown by American personnel to assist the Indian Air Force in battles within Indian airspace. He also requested two squadrons of bombers to strike at Chinese installations and air bases.
Nehru probably felt justified in asking for this aid, which was worth around five hundred million US dollars spread over five years – which the USA was willing to provide – because it had previously provided Pakistan with military aid worth over eight hundred million US dollars. Kennedy agreed to this request but the Departments of State and Defence prevailed upon him not to upset Pakistan. The aid package consequently offered amounted to half of that requested but, more importantly, came with the condition that India make territorial concessions to Pakistan on Kashmir.
Nehru immediately backed away from his request for an American shield. As he later argued, apart from the fact that the Chinese could have attacked and inflicted much damage on Indian cities and infrastructure before any American support materialised, it made no sense to become militarily dependent upon another country to defend itself.
Washington was also engaged in a crisis of its own: the Cuban missile crisis was at its height and President Kennedy was engaged in discussions with the country’s defence officials and in negotiations (and threats) with Russian representatives and government officials. Recognising the USSR as a state that was able to threaten the US, Nehru turned to Moscow instead. Relations with the USSR had changed from about 1952, when communist superpower began to support India in the United Nations on resolutions pertaining to Kashmir. In 1955, relations improved vastly with the visits of the two leaders to each other’s countries and the grant of considerable Soviet aid to India. Nehru also elicited an assurance from Khrushchev during his visit to India not to interfere in India’s internal affairs by assisting the Indian Communist Party.
 It was possibly because of these growing relations that, when the Suez Crisis erupted in 1956, Nehru was far more vociferous in denouncing Western colonialism than the actions of the USSR at the same time in Hungary. This approach paid dividends when Khrushchev denounced China’s madness in attacking India. Khrushchev also urged the two countries to a peaceable settlement but assured India that the USSR would never support China’s aggressive policy against India. India could not forego such strong statements of support that came without the conditions that the US imposed on its support. This established the tone for India’s growing relationship with the USSR, a relationship which extended into the 1990s and which remains strong, despite setbacks, at this time.
In the event, the Chinese withdrew unilaterally, retaining for themselves only the land they had claimed prior to invading India. (It is to be noted in passing that China invaded India only when the US was distracted by the events in Cuba and withdrew when the Cuban crisis had all but ceased. In this, it followed a set principle of striking when the world’s attention was distracted by events elsewhere.) While the Chinese invasion left a searing mark on the Indian psyche, New Delhi did not forget that its request at a time of national crisis had been turned down by a country that it had considered a friend.
To prevent a repeat of that incident, it turned to the USSR for two main reasons. First, Moscow could supply it with the weapons systems and other technology it sought and, arguably more importantly, could be of major benefit to India merely by virtue of its geographical location. Situated as it was to China’s west and north, New Delhi reasoned, if India could enter into a defence pact with the USSR, Moscow could be called upon for assistance in any struggle with China in the event that the latter once again tried to invade India. China, it felt, could not sustain simultaneous attacks on its territory from its north, west and south. In August 1971, after India had prosecuted a successful war with Pakistan in 1965 and amid ongoing tensions with both Pakistan and China, it signed the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Co-operation with the USSR. The fact that the USSR had the ability to threaten the US would undoubtedly have also influenced Nehru’s decision to turn to Moscow.
Over time, a grateful Nehru widened Indo-Russian relations, a task that his successors furthered. Their relationship extended into the spheres of politics, economics, defence, science and technology, culture and nuclear energy. In political terms, the two countries have grown close, with the Annual Summit between the Prime Minister of India and the President of the Russian Federation being the highest institutionalised dialogue mechanism under the joint Strategic Partnership. During the 2014 Summit, for example, Prime Minister Modi and President Putin signed agreements covering issues as diverse as co-operation in defence, hydrocarbons, nuclear energy, science and technology, and trade and investment.
In December 2015, they signed sixteen more agreements, including on defence and nuclear energy. The two leaders also issued a Joint Statement, “Druzhba-Dosti: A Vision for strengthening the Indian-Russian Partnership over the next decade.” Modi met Putin, furthermore, on the sidelines of the seventh BRICS Summit in the Russian city of Ufa, on 8 July 2015 and also had taken part in the celebrations held in Moscow on 9 May 2015 to mark the seventieth anniversary of victory in World War II. Other meetings between government officials of both countries take place on a regular basis.
A notable instance of the close co-operation between the two countries, albeit one predicated upon mutual self-interest, is the co-opting of India by Russia into the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation. Russia chose to bring India into the organisation, presumably to balance China’s influence within it, and India joined the organisation to avail itself of the economic opportunities that could arise from membership as well as balancing China and Pakistan, which China had brought into the organisation.
India and Russia also have a fairly strong economic relationship. Bilateral trade between the two countries amounted to approximately US$9.5 billion in 2014, with the balance of trade decidedly in Russia’s favour.
India exported pharmaceuticals, iron and steel, tea and tobacco, among other products and imported defence and nuclear power equipment, fertilisers and electrical products. The two countries have agreed to boost trade to US$30 billion by 2025. There is active co-operation between the two countries in subsurface surveys and exploration for hydrocarbons offshore in Russia’s Arctic region. In 2014 Gazprom, the giant Russian gas organisation signed a memorandum of understanding with Oil India Ltd., to co-operate in exploration endeavours, training, the development of oil fields and the sharing of information. In July 2015, India’s Essar Group and Russia’s Rosneft signed a preliminary agreement whereby Rosneft would acquire 49 per cent of Essar’s Vadinar Oil refinery and supply crude oil to Essar for the next ten years. In September last year, India’s OVL reached an agreement with Rosneft to acquire a 15 per cent holding in the Vankorneft project.
There is similar co-operation in the sharing of nuclear power generation. Russia built the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project in south India. The first reactor became commercially operational in December 2014 and the second is due to become operational in 2016-17. General Framework Agreements have been signed for Units 3 and 4. The leaders of the two countries announced that Russia would build at least six more nuclear units in India during their annual summit in December 2015.
It is, however, in the defence field that the relationship comes into its own. The defence relationship has proceeded in leaps and bounds to the extent that India now manufactures the Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter aircraft under licence. The two countries collaborated to create the Brahmos Consortium that manufactures the missiles of the same name in India. These missiles have been inducted into India’s defence services. Russia loaned Akula-class nuclear submarines to India so that the Indian Navy could study them and determine how nuclear submarines could be best inducted and used. The Indian nuclear submarine, the Arihant, was designed and built with Russian input. The fifth-generation fighter aircraft that Russia has designed and is now testing was done in conjunction with Indian input. In short, it is the defence co-operation between the two countries that underscores their relationship.
All is not plain sailing, however.
The sorry tale of the INS Vikramaditya, the aircraft carrier that India purchased from Russia, illustrates this point. Negotiations for the purchase of the Admiral Gorshkov, as it was known then, began in 1994 and an Inter-Governmental Agreement for the acquisition of the cruiser, after it had been converted into an aircraft carrier, in 2000. According to the terms of the agreement, the ship would be given free of charge to India but the latter would pay US$800 million for the changes to be carried out and a further US$1 billion for the twelve MiG29 aircraft that India needed to equip it. The delivery date was to be 2008. Cost over-runs, however, required that India pay an additional US$1.2 billion and delivery was pushed back to 2013 at the earliest. In 2008, however, Russia announced that it needed to increase the price of the carrier by a further US$2 billion. When India protested, Russia threatened to scrap the deal altogether. India buckled, leaving the government’s Comptroller and Auditor General to lament that India had paid sixty per cent more for a second-hand aircraft carrier than a new one and one that still did not have a definite delivery date.
This incident soured relations between the two countries. Things did not get any better when India, having placed a world-wide tender for 126 medium multirole fighter aircraft in 2004, eliminated the Russian offerings around 2011. India next increased its purchases of major, strategic aircraft from the US and weapons systems from Israel and France, further souring its relationship with Russia. Things took a turn for the worse when it was reported that Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated that Russia could form an axis of co-operation with China and Pakistan. This was first raised in the aftermath of Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s visit to Islamabad in November 2014. Russia, it was reported, planned to sell Pakistan its sophisticated and lethal Sukhoi Su-35 aircraft. While the Russian embassy in New Delhi sought to play down this announcement by reiterating Moscow’s commitment to the Strategic Partnership Declaration of 2000, whereby both countries are obliged not to undertake activities that could prove detrimental to the security of the other, India was under no delusions as to the danger that such a development would pose. Modi’s visit to Moscow in December 2015 was, therefore, a bridge-renovating exercise in many respects.
It must be noted, however, that the dependence on each other is mutual: Russia’s induction of India into the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation to lend it support in balancing China, especially in the Central Asian republics and Afghanistan, is just one indication of that. India, moreover, refused to condemn Russia after it invaded the Ukraine and annexed the Crimean Peninsula. Moscow needed that support. It came as no real surprise, then, that the negotiations on the development of the Fifth Generation Fighter Aircraft that India sorely wanted re-started after they had slowed to a standstill.
Modi’s visit to Moscow was an exercise in re-building the Indo-Russian relationship, remarking that Russia remained ‘a strong and reliable friend’.
Putin, not to be outdone, replied that he looked forward to ‘developing the privileged strategic partnership between India and Russia.’ The two leaders then went on to sign sixteen agreements on co-operation in various fields of endeavour. It appears that both recognise their interdependence: India still requires technology transfers and energy; Russia, India’s defence and energy infrastructure spending. The trick will be to manage the relationship so as to engender mutual benefit and that demand will always require compromise.
Any opinions or views expressed in this paper are those of the individual author, unless stated to be those of Future Directions International.

Published by Future Directions International Pty Ltd.
80 Birdwood Parade, Dalkeith WA 6009, Australia.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Interview: Dede Oetomo on the LGBT panic

By Tim Mann with Dede Oetomo

Indonesia has witnessed a sustained attack on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community over the past two months. Even waria (link is external) (Indonesian transwomen), who have historically been accepted (under certain conditions), have been targeted. What do you think is behind the current panic?I
It has just exploded. It could have been triggered by anyone, there is no particular reason why Muhammad Nasir (link is external), the minister of higher education, research and technology, was the one who started it. Some people believe the whole thing has been planned, but I am not so sure. I think we have been building up to this for a while. If we look back to the 1980s and 1990s there were only a few examples of gay people in the public sphere in Indonesia. Two lesbians married in Jakarta in 1981 and I came out right after that and was in a magazine every month. Then in about the mid-2000s, we started to see more news from overseas. Elton John got married, Ricky Martin came out. I suspect, quietly in their living rooms, conservative families were becoming anxious. There were earlier indications of this, for example in anti-same sex marriage statements from former Nahdlatul Ulama head Hasyim Muzadi, members of the national legislature, and the former Minister of Religious Affairs Suryadharma Ali.
It is important to note that in this instance, the panic is not being driven solely by conservative Islam. I agree with Ariel Heryanto’s analysis that it relates to old New Order ideas being disturbed. The heteronormative template – Julia Suryakusuma would call it State Ibuism (link is external) – that was so vigorously promoted by the New Order is being disrupted. It also relates to the appearance of order that is so crucial in high Javanese society. Challenges to this order are perceived as threatening. People already know that things are in a mess, but when the mess starts to want legitimacy, when it starts to organise, that’s when they get really frightened.
This lesbian wedding was covered in Tempo magazine in 1981. This would probably never happen now, even in a liberal magazine like Tempo, considering the scandal that erupted last year when photos emerged of a gay wedding in Bali (link is external).

There was no hoo-ha at the time. There was one long article in Tempo, and then it was picked up by Majalah Liberty in Surabaya and another couple of media outlets. There was no condemnation. But there are a number of important differences between this and the recent wedding in Bali. The wedding in Jakarta was between two Indonesian women, while the wedding in Bali was between an Indonesian and a foreigner, an American. And the Balinese wedding occurred right after the US Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. Of course neither wedding was a legal event but the one in Bali happened at a time when the conservatives were becoming increasingly anxious.
This is not to say that these weddings no longer occur. I know of a lesbian wedding in Lawang, East Java, which was presided over by a scholar from one of the local Islamic universities. He said that according to his interpretation of Islamic law, two women could marry and it was his role to simply facilitate the process, they didn’t necessarily even need a celebrant. I also know a protestant minister who has blessed at least one lesbian wedding in Bali.
To what extent have advances in the west contributed to the situation Indonesia is facing now?

When the Netherlands legalised same-sex marriage in 2001, the reaction of most Indonesians was: “Oh well, it’s just one country”. Belgium and Spain followed, but most people didn’t notice. These developments were covered in media like Tempo and Kompas, but only briefly. The US Supreme Court decision certainly has contributed to the current panic, as it did in many other countries.
But civil society organisations in Indonesia have also played a role. I was one of the authors of the Indonesia report for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-supported “Being LGBT in Asia” program, which has been a particular target of conservative groups. We reported – and I don’t believe we were overstating things – that there were 119 LGBT organisations in this country. It is difficult to know how many there are exactly, because even though these organisations are registered with the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, most do not use words like “gay” in their titles. It is not only about wanting to hide from view. Attorneys, who help with the registration process, might, for example, be unwilling to help for personal reasons or if they are afraid of being reprimanded by their colleagues. In any case, conservatives were deeply concerned by the figure of 119, and, in particular, by the realisation that LGBT groups were organising.
We have seen some incredibly misinformed and incorrect statements by public officials. The idea that homosexuality is a disease appears firmly lodged in the Indonesian consciousness.

Knowledge about sexuality in Indonesia is just amazingly low. It is incredible that this is a country where just about everyone talks about sex but pretends that they’re not talking about it. Just look at how often stories about sex appear in local media. If you read some of these stories, for example about young people being caught in the act, the tone of the news is terrible, we seem so bothered by sexuality.
I recently read a transcript of a discussion between Commission I of the national legislature (DPR), which oversees security and foreign affairs, and the Indonesian Broadcasting Commission (KPI). It was clear that they had never read anything about sexuality. There is a script in their minds that says: “You are going to recruit our innocent boys and girls to be gays or lesbians, or to be transgender.” I had to learn about sexuality because I was gay. I had to come out, I had to save myself, and so I read. I was a nerdy gay. Unfortunately, most Indonesians do not read much. Unless you have a problem – or even if you do have a problem – you are not likely to go to go to the books. People are just as likely to go to a dukun (traditional healer) or religious leader.
The media certainly hasn’t helped. The more civilised media, like Kompas, Tempo, and The Jakarta Post try to explain but my experience talking with journalists, even from these organisations, is that most of them don’t get it. One of my former students, Febriana Firdaus, who writes for Rappler, has published some great work over the past couple of months. She really gets it.
Discrimination is often described as invisible power. Apart from a couple of exceptions, state officials have come out strongly against the LGBT community. What impact do you think these statements from public officials (“visible power”) will have on discrimination?

We have already seen a few casualties. The first incident was the so-called “sweeping” for lesbians in Bandung by the FPI. The waria pesantren (Islamic boarding school) in Yogyakarta has also been closed (link is external) but it was an icon, an obvious target. BBC, Al Jazeera, everybody had covered it. They’re my friends and the pesantren was of deep significance because it was the only one. But it was small – there were only about 20 members. My organisation, Gaya Nusantara, was also involved in an HIV testing campaign party that had to be cancelled (link is external). The police were careful, and suggested we postpone the event until the controversy died down. Unfortunately the program cycle didn’t allow this, so we were a victim there. But because of all the media attention, there was a surge in the number of people getting tested. The clinics involved in the program said hundreds more people were tested than in regular weeks. As an old activist, I’ve seen these things before and I certainly don’t welcome them. They’re annoying and they make life difficult, but there are usually some positives in the long run.
On the issue of discrimination, a couple of weeks after this scandal broke, I was in Jakarta. I met some regular fun-loving gay guys and mentioned the minister’s statement. They had no idea! There are still guys and lesbian women and some transwomen who don’t know what’s going on.
Is that a sign of the movement being poorly organised, that they are not politically engaged?

Well, yes. I would estimate that there are only about 2,000 politically engaged LGBT activists in Indonesia. But even if you use a conservative estimate of about 3 per cent of the Indonesian population, that should give you more than 7 million LGBT people in the country. Many of them simply don’t care. Especially now with dating apps, they can still get their sex. They can do it undercover.
The Indonesian LGBT movement has for decades used the example of the bissu (link is external) in South Sulawesi (link is external) or the warok-gemblakan (link is external)tradition in East Java (link is external) to demonstrate that non-normative sexualities have always been present in the archipelago. Do you think that this is a useful strategy? Why are these messages not getting through now?

This was a good strategy in the 1980s and early 1990s because the powers that be claimed that they were the true traditionalists, guardians of high culture (kebudayaan adiluhung). We were able to expose their ignorance by saying, “What tradition?”, and show that Indonesia is rich in traditions that do not follow rigid understandings of gender. There are also Dayak groups, for example, that have trans-priestesses. But it is true that highlighting these traditions appears to be less effective now. Although waria have historically been acceptable to most Indonesians, it is important to remember that Indonesian Muslims with a more orthodox understanding of their faith have always been bothered by them, and sought to repress them.
Vice President Jusuf Kalla has requested UNDP not fund any LGBT organisations in Indonesia (link is external). Many see this as a strategy designed to weaken the movement.

The government has tried this in the past, attempting to weaken human rights organisations like the Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) and Elsam by restricting their access to funds. I have heard that some of the major donors have been summoned by the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) and the State Secretariat. Honestly, we have been a bit disappointed by the likes of UNDP, USAID, and Ford Foundation. In the 1990s, when the Indonesian government refused to accept aid money from the Netherlands, Dutch nongovernmental organisations Oxfam Novib and Hivos set up companies that would allow them to channel funds to Indonesian organisations. I don’t see any of the donors doing that now.
Do you feel that part of the reason this panic has snowballed and continued for so long is that there has been so little leadership from President Joko Widodo?

It is certainly part of the problem. Although Jokowi has not made any statements in public, I heard from a number of people that he called Muhammad Nasir and Anies Baswedan (link is external) [the minister of education and culture] after their statements. He apparently said, in a very Javanese way, of course: “I am not happy with these statements that are against my Nawa Cita.” If you look at the Nawa Cita, his nine-point priority agenda, sexual orientation is there. It is quite progressive. I was recently at a US Black History Month event, and one of the speakers pointed out that even with a black man in the White House, they still had Ferguson (link is external). Unfortunately we can’t always expect the president to be able to stop things, it is a democracy.
Tim Mann is the editor of Indonesia at Melbourne where this interview first appeared.

Indonesia's policy u-turn: Economic revolution, or empty promise?

Tom Lembong​ is the Harvard-educated Indonesian Trade Minister. He is the modern face of an Indonesian government presided over by Jokowi Widodo, who has struggled to gain traction in his first year in office.

If Lembong is to be believed, Indonesia is on the cusp of an infrastructure boom and on the way to realising its potential as the most dynamic economy in south-east Asia.

What is uncontestable for anyone who has been stuck in Jakarta traffic – much worse in my experience than the worst of Beijing gridlock – is that Indonesia is certainly in need of an infrastructure makeover.

What is much less clear is whether the Jokowi administration has the capacity to jolt a lethargic Asian giant out of a post-colonial protectionist mindset. This has caused the country to lag behind its neighbours economically.
In a lively conversation this week with editors of Australian publications, Lembong said Jokowi would come to be regarded as a "quiet achiever" who is in the process of bringing about "one of the biggest policy u-turns in [Indonesia's] history".

Lembong proclaimed that an era of "shallow nationalism" is at an end and that Indonesia will now embrace a more open, less constrained economic model that would enable the country to realise its undoubted potential relatively free of crippling over-regulation and pervasive corruption.

Predictions off

I would like to believe him, but remain sceptical.
Academic literature abounds with predictions of Indonesia's emergence.
On the flight north, I had read an Australian National University study – Indonesia Rising: The Repositioning of Asia's Third Giant – published in 2012. It had contributions from, among others, the ubiquitous Professor Ross Garnaut, and a preface from the even more ubiquitous former foreign minister Gareth Evans.

In the years since publication, we have witnessed less of a rise and more of a bump, now constrained by the end of the commodities cycle.

In an opening chapter sub-titled "Goodbye China, Hello Indonesia?", ANU professor Anthony Reid quotes New York University Stern School economics professor Nouriel Roubini's​ forecast back in 2010 that an Indonesian business model with low inflation, low debt and a young demographic would outperform China.
That prediction was made six years ago: while China's economy is continuing to slow, so too is Indonesia's, growing at below 5 per cent in 2015, although there was a slight uptick in the fourth quarter.

Indonesia needs to do better to accommodate the expectations of a restive population of 250 million people and hold at bay extremist movements poised to take advantage of an economic downturn.

Relationship revamp

Australian editors were told this week by government officials and Islamist scholars that Indonesia's brand of "moderate Islam" would withstand fundamentalist pressures, but our interlocutors could not be sure about the extent to which Middle East-inspired extremism had made inroads into the minds of young Indonesians.
Indonesia is potentially vulnerable to violent Islamic jihadist ideology, as we've seen in terrorist incidents over the years, including most recently in Jakarta in early 2016. In those circumstances, it would be foolish to assume that all will be well in our most populous neighbour – or, put another way, that stability can be guaranteed.

What is the case Рto the point where making such declarations has become a clich̩ of Australian foreign policy and thus devalued in the process Рis that relations with Jakarta need a bit of a makeover, starting with the economic relationship, which is paltry.

Surprisingly, Australia's two-way merchandise trade with Indonesia ranks 12th, way below neighbouring – and much smaller – Asian neighbours such as Singapore and Malaysia.
Australia is the world's 12th-largest economy, Indonesia is the 16th and en route to the top 10 within the next decade or so, according to some estimates.

Trade Minister Lembong would be the first to admit that difficulties of doing business in Indonesia – rated by Transparency International as one of the more corrupt countries in the world – constrains trade and investment.

He will be in Australia in the next week or so to work on a "scoping study" to facilitate a free-trade agreement in which Indonesia makes some overdue gestures to improving its investment environment.

The Indonesian official is not overstating things when he says: "We have a lot of homework to do on our side." We should wish him well.

Tony Walker is The Australian Financial Review's international editor. He travelled to Indonesia as part of an Australia-Indonesia Institute delegation organised by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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Avoiding the ugly okkers is unwise

By Duncan Graham

Most are negative — the sexy, arrogant French, the aloof class-conscious English, and the quaint, simple Irish — even though they’ve produced some of the world’s greatest writers.Leaders accept the tags if positive - the Germans are proud of their reputation for being hard-working and disciplined; likewise with the Japanese, famous for their politeness and efficiency.

Indonesians get a bit of both, smiling but superstitious.But the negative images? Outrageous falsehoods! The latest to plead unfair and say the world has got it wrong is the Australian Ambassador to Indonesia.Paul Grigson reckons his country’s reputation for sending uncouth boors and bogans [alayan or anak lebay is probably the nearest local equivalent] to Bali is undeserved.

The career diplomat, apparently a fan of Indonesian coffee which proves he has taste, underlined his claim this way:From a million plus visitors “the number of cases dealt with by the consulate in Bali last year was in the low hundreds”.As the interview with the Philippines-based social news network Rappler was about crass conduct rather than trade and investments or lost passports, there’s a perceived problem — and as politicians say at election time — perception is reality.

Stereotypes are simplistic and clichés grow trite but most started life as facts. Presumably the vague “low hundreds” Grigson highlights were the extreme cases where the police became involved, and through them the Australian authorities.Only people in serious strife would go to the consulate which doesn’t have a reputation for accommodating idiot drunks (as opposed to those who’ve suffered misfortune or accidents) so these figures are a poor indicator.

Undercover research isn’t necessary to show the extent of the concern. Jalan Legian and surrounds is much like any Australian city’s night club district, though with a higher level of tolerance for push and shove, swearing, shouting and vomiting.In Australia disorderly conduct, generally known as offensive behavior, is subject to on-the-spot fines.However, in Kuta, uniformed police are rarely seen and bouncers seem loathe to intervene.

The visitors’ loud mouth conduct may be ugly, but their wallets need emptying before management gets heavy. Locals watch the circus with contempt.A subjective survey by travel app Triposo ranked Australians fifth in a list of notoriously bad tourists. Americans, Brits, Russians and Chinese were ahead, with the government back in the People’s Republic now threatening travel bans on those who bring shame on their nation. Grigson said the reputation of Australians in Indonesia “shouldn’t be tarnished because of a few misbehavers.”Absolutely, just as all Indonesians should not be judged by the evil actions of a fundamentalist few with crazy agendas.

But as the bombers and corruptors make the news rather than the gracious majority, so the Bali brats are giving tourists from next door a nasty name in the archipelago.So what to do? Indonesia could prosper from the sort of tourists who go to New Zealand for the scenery, culture and adventure, earning that tiny country more than US$54 million every day. Twelve percent of the workforce is involved.

That’s a serious slice of the economy.Grigson praised the Indonesian government’s policy change allowing Australians visa-free entry and urged visitors to wander wider; if they harken his words there’s a chance the image might get slowly repaired and the Republic succeed in reaching its goal of attracting more than 10 million foreigners.“I think for far too long we’ve understated the importance of Australian tourism to Indonesia,” he reportedly said, claiming his countryfolk spend more time and money here than other visitors.“There’s a myth Australians come to Bali, they stay five nights and six days, stay cheap and then go home.“But actually, they stay longer than any other tourists — they come for a long time, spend more than anyone else, and most importantly they come back.

Australians are interested tourists.”Those who follow His Excellency’s excellent advice and venture across the Bali Strait won’t be seeking pool parties and wet T-shirt competitions; they don’t exist. The big hotels cater for sober-suited businesspeople, not slobs in skivvies. The mountainside resorts market tranquillity amid plantations, not happy hours.

Beer is only available in the bigger cities. The spirits to be found will be in mysterious temple compounds predating the arrival of Islam, not in supermarkets.Australians working their way through Java’s magic mountains will be more mature, modestly dressed, quieter spoken, better educated and in search of beauty, culture and rural Indonesia. They’ll admire, show respect and put questions about history, art, lifestyle and cuisine.

They’ll try the language and probably bring their kids.Inevitably the locals will ask these weird wayfarers dari mana? Trekkers should carry compasses, as geography is not always a strong point with rural folk who sometimes locate Australia in Europe or North America.

A huge map on a Malang school wall has Indonesia bigger than China.Indonesians discovering that their nearest Western neighbors can be decent people with a genuine interests should help offset the negative views generated by the slobs.At this stage it’s too ambitious to expect a massive reappraisal of the ugly Okker, but one step at a time — away from Bali.

Duncan Graham is a New Zealand journalist who lives in Malang, East Java. - See more at: