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73 5 Yudhoyono’s foreign policy: is Indonesia a rising power? Evi Fitriani When Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono became president of Indonesia in 2004, he took charge of a country whose international reputation had been shaped primarily by political instability, economic hardship and security threats such as terrorism and secessionism. In addition, Indonesia ’s foreign policy had been devastated by the separation of TimorLeste and the loss of the Sipadan and Ligitan islands to Malaysia following a decision in the International Court of Justice in 2002. Restoring the country’s badly tarnished image became a key priority of Yudhoyono’s presidency. At the same time, he aspired for Indonesia to play a more prominent role in international organisations such as the United Nations, the G20 and ASEAN. By the time he left office in 2014, it appeared that Indonesia had indeed defied the inauspicious circumstances at the beginning of Yudhoyono’s term in office and re-emerged as a respected player on the global map of international affairs. This remarkable transformation has prompted some observers to describe Indonesia as a rising or emerging power. This chapter seeks to assess the merits of these claims and analyse Yudhoyono’s role in shaping Indonesia’s foreign policy during the ten years of his presidency, paying particular attention to an apparent paradox . On the one hand, Indonesia’s growing international reputation as a rising or emerging power is often attributed to its successful democratisation and its image as a model Muslim democracy (Acharya 2014). Western governments in particular have not tired of praising Indonesia’s achievements under Yudhoyono’s leadership (Leahy 2014; Santi 2014). On the other hand, however, both the media and academic observers of Indonesian domestic politics have increasingly questioned whether the country really deserves this praise (Harsono 2012). In this chapter, I argue Update book 2014-15.indb 73 19/04/2015 11:39 am 74  The Yudhoyono Presidency: Indonesia’s Decade of Stability and Stagnation that this seeming paradox is explained in part by Yudhoyono’s approach to foreign policy. As I will demonstrate, the president’s personality heavily shaped Indonesia’s approach to foreign affairs, especially during his second term when he made the narrative of a successful Muslim democracy a cornerstone of his foreign policy. Building on the appeal of this narrative, Yudhoyono brought Indonesia back into the community of nations, restoring its visibility in the eyes of the inter­ national community. It would be premature, however, to consider Indonesia a rising power. A number of studies have examined Indonesian foreign policy under Yudhoyono. Tan (2007) and Novotny (2010) analysed the early years of his presidency, outlining the difficulty of navigating a fragile country through an era of significant global change. Others have highlighted how Yudhoyono took Indonesia closer to the United States by signing the United States–Indonesia Comprehensive Partnership and other, more specific agreements in 2010 (Murphy 2010; Stone 2010). Poole (2014) examined Yudhoyono’s efforts to promote and project democratic identity through Indonesia’s foreign policy. Most of the existing studies focus on particular foreign policy issues during Yudhoyono’s presidency. This chapter aims to provide a more comprehensive assessment of Yudhoyono ’s foreign policy legacy and to enrich our understanding of the role of a country’s leader in shaping contemporary international relations. The chapter uses actor-specific theory to understand Yudhoyono’s role in and contribution to Indonesia’s foreign policy. Actor-specific theory helps us to study the processes and results of a leader’s role in decision-making, the consequences of those decisions for foreign entities and the standing of the leader in his or her own country. In actorspecific theory, it is imperative to investigate the motivations, emotions and processes of problem representation of the leader. Hudson (2005: 6), for example, suggests looking at the ‘psycho-milieu’ around a leader to understand ‘the international and operational environment or context as it is perceived and interpreted’ during decision-making processes. The perceptions of a leader and of stakeholders may differ such that this creates differing expectations of foreign policy. At this critical juncture, a leader may opt for less satisfactory foreign policy choices (Hudson 2005: 6). Thus, actor-specific theory would prescribe close observation of the individual characteristics of a president such as Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to understand the approaches to foreign policy he chose during his presidency. This chapter evolves in five stages. The first section examines the notion that Indonesia is a rising power. The second focuses on Yudhoyono...


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