Beyond Maritime Diplomacy: Foreign Ministry’s Roles in Implementing the Indonesian Ocean Policy

On February 2017 the government issued the Presidential Decree on Indonesian Ocean Policy (IOP). The decree was designed to achieve the Global Maritime Fulcrum (GMF) vision of Indonesia as a sovereign, advanced, independent, strong maritime nation that is able to provide positive contribution for peace and security in the region as well as to the world.

The IOP contains seven pillars and one of them is maritime diplomacy. The inclusion of maritime diplomacy as one pillar of the IOP can be seen from two points of view. First, it underlines the significance of the international dimensions of the policy. The government, by incorporating maritime diplomacy, realized the key role of international cooperation in supporting its efforts in accomplishing the GMF vision. Second, considering that contribution to regional and global security is mentioned as part of the GMF vision, the inclusion of maritime diplomacy is indeed a necessary. It is impossible to put the IOP in the global context without diplomacy.

The inclusion of maritime diplomacy as well as the presence of the world ‘global’ in the title of the doctrine indicates that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) has huge tasks and responsibilities in the implementation of the IOP. To analyze how the MOFA can significantly contribute in achieving goals of this policy, first we have to look at the definition of maritime diplomacy as stipulated at the IOP. Maritime diplomacy is defined as form of foreign policy implementation which is not only related to maritime aspects at bilateral, regional, and global levels; but also related to the utilization of maritime assets, civilian and military, to fulfill national interests in accordance with national laws and international law.

The above definition indicates the prominence of security-based approach in maritime diplomacy. Such a prominence is also reflected in seven strategic policies to conduct maritime diplomacy explained at the Presidential Decree. Those strategic policies are focused on leadership on maritime cooperation, regional and global security, norm-making, maritime boundaries, submission of extended continental shelf, representation in related international organizations, and verification of names of islands.

Considering this security-based approach, it is important to note that the MOFA should take roles beyond maritime diplomacy. MOFA’s tasks and responsibilities in implementing the IOP should not be limited to conducting maritime diplomacy but engaging to the other six pillars. The main consideration behind this view is the fact that the international dimension of IOP is not only related to security aspect but also, not less importantly, economic aspect. MOFA’s main responsibility in conducting maritime diplomacy, therefore, should not undermine its important roles in the other six pillars.

After reviewing the definition of maritime diplomacy in the context of IOP, the following policy recommendations are proposed to answer the question of how the MOFA can significantly contribute to the implementation process. First, the MOFA should integrate the goals of IOP in its programs. That is to say that the MOFA should be able to incorporate IOP’s strategic policies and plans of action into its existing programs and activities at bilateral, regional, and global levels. To do so the MOFA should develop clear guideline on how its organizational units as well as Indonesia’s diplomatic and consular missions can incorporate the IOP into their respective programs and activities. The MOFA can assign its research and policy development unit – in collaboration with other related units – to develop the said guidance.

Second, considering that the MOFA has the main responsibility in conducting maritime diplomacy, it should also develop a comprehensive guideline on seven strategic policies on maritime diplomacy as emanated in the Presidential Decree. The MOFA should identify existing mechanisms – at bilateral, regional, and global levels – that can be utilized to achieve IOP goals. The MOFA, for example, can use existing maritime-related forums in ASEAN and the UN to promote IOP goals. When necessary, the MOFA may also develop new mechanisms to further implement the IOP.

Third, as stated earlier that the MOFA should go beyond maritime diplomacy, it is important for the Ministry to define its contribution in the other six pillars of IOP. MOFA’s possible contribution in each of those pillars can summarized as follow.

  • Marine and human resources development

The MOFA can contribute by providing analysis on good practices and lessons learned from other countries than have been at the advanced stage on this particular area. The MOFA can also seek technical assistances from related international organization to further enhance marine and human resources development in Indonesia.

  • Maritime Security, Law Enforcement and Safety at Sea

The MOFA can play a leading role in negotiations related to this issue at bilateral, regional, and multilateral levels.

  • Ocean Governance and Institutions

The MOFA can contribute by actively participating at norm-setting negotiations to ensure that Indonesia’s national interests on maritime issues are accommodated in the norm.

  • Maritime Economy Development

The MOFA can contribute by integrating the goals of IOP into its economic diplomacy. Promotion of Indonesia’s maritime commodities, investment opportunities, and maritime tourist destination should be designated as main priorities.

  • Sea space management and marine protection

The MOFA can play an active role in negotiations related to this issue. Main goal to achieve is to ensure that Indonesia’s national interests are proportionally reflected on the outcomes.

  • Maritime culture

The MOFA can contribute by providing good practices and lessons learned from other countries on how to develop good maritime culture.

To conclude, the IOP is a comprehensive policy comprises goals, policies and plans of action in various sectors. Collaboration among stakeholders in the key to ensure the effectiveness of its implementation. To significantly contribute, the MOFA should implement a holistic approach. The MOFA should not restrict its roles and responsibilities only in the pillar of maritime diplomacy. The MOFA has a lot to offer in the other six pillars. We have to bear in mind, however, that the significance of MOFA’s contribution will depend on how it can develop a clear guideline. Without a guideline MOFA’s role will only be sporadic and unsustainable.

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Author: Khasan Ashari

Pandir Kelana. Senang (tapi belum rajin) menulis. Ingin mewujudkan impian semasa kecil, berkelana ke negeri-negeri yang jauh.

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