Short essays and commentaries
2018. "Abandoned at Sea: The Tribunal Ruling and Indonesia's Missing Archipelagic Foreign Policy", Asian Politics & Policy, Vol. 10, No. 2: pp. 300-321 (with Ristian Atriandi Supriyanto)
Indonesia's response to the 2016 UNCLOS tribunal ruling was underwhelming, even as a nonclaimant in the South China Sea disputes. Given its maritime geography and interests, the response is symptomatic of the country's underdevelopment of an “archipelagic foreign policy”—one where the entire foreign policy system, from its bureaucracy, doctrine, and strategy, should be geared to secure and defend its external maritime interests. This article further argues that the authoritarian New Order regime (1966–1998) repressed the development of an archipelagic foreign policy in two ways: (1) the army‐dominated foreign policy establishment deprioritized external maritime interests and (2) the infusion of the National Resilience (Ketahanan Nasional) concept into the “Archipelagic Outlook” (Wawasan Nusantara) doctrine as a regime maintenance tool further “domesticated” what could have been a geopolitical outlook. These authoritarian legacies put Indonesia's foreign policy on a path‐dependent trajectory that even President Joko Widodo's Global Maritime Fulcrum could not break.
"Promises and pitfalls of Indonesia's faith in multilateralism", The Jakarta Post, February 1, 2018
"An Indo-Pacific construct with 'Indonesian characteristics'," The Strategist, February 6, 2018
"Indonesia-US relations: sweating the small stuff", The Interpreter, January 9, 2018
"Indonesia: strategic threat or strategic partner?", The Strategist, January 17, 2018
"Why Indonesia’s new map is not (all) about the South China Sea", The Strategist, August 1, 2017
2017. "Pragmatic Equidistance: How Indonesia Manages its Great Power Relations", in China, the United States, and the Future of Southeast Asia, ed. David Denoon. New York, NY: New York University Press, pp. 113-135
This chapter describes the rationale and nature of Indonesia’s foreign policy vis-à-vis the United States and China. It places Indonesia’s foreign policy pertaining to these two countries within the broader context of Jakarta’s overall management of its great power relations. I argue that Indonesia’s approach can be described as one of ‘pragmatic equidistance’. As an approach to great power management, pragmatic equidistance captures the idea of fully engaging one great power in various forms of cooperation — from economic to defense matters — while simultaneously maintaining both strategic autonomy and keeping equal balance with other great powers.
"Foreign policy implications of Jakarta's election", The Jakarta Post, June 7, 2017
"The (maritime) recalibration of Indonesia-Australia defence relations", The Strategist, March 23, 2017
"Indonesian Sea Policy: Accelerating Jokowi's Global Maritime Fulcrum?," Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, March 23, 2017
2016. "The Domestic Politics of Indonesia's Approach to the Tribunal Ruling and the South China Sea", Contemporary Southeast Asia, 38 (3): pp. 382-388
This article argues that Indonesia’s inconsistency should be placed within the deeper and broader historical ambivalence embedded in the bilateral relationship with China and in Indonesia’s awkward non-claimant position, as well as the country’s chaotic domestic maritime security governance. These permissive (or antecedent) conditions, however, are necessary but insufficient to explain Indonesia’s lukewarm response to the ruling. This article argues that President Jokowi’s lack of personal interest and grasp of foreign policy provides the more proximate (or triggering) condition behind the response. Specifically, his aloofness has led to deteriorating bureaucratic politics and the growing inﬂuence of a small number of advisers outside of the foreign ministry — a “foreign policy oligarchy” if you will — in the formulation of the country’s China policy.
"Should Indonesia and Australia jointly patrol the South China Sea?," The Jakarta Post, March 13, 2017
"In Indo-Pacific strategic flux, where is Indonesia?," The Jakarta Post, February 27, 2017
"Indonesia-Australia relations and the perils of success" The Jakarta Post, January 30, 2017
"Will a trump presidency be disastrous for Indonesia?," The Jakarta Post, November 14, 2016
2011. “Indonesia’s Rising Regional and Global Profile: Does Size Really Matter?“, Contemporary Southeast Asia 33 (2): pp. 157 – 182
This paper seeks to challenge the view that Indonesia’s geographical and population size account for its rising regional and global proﬁle. Instead, it makes three inter-related arguments. First, the manifestations of Indonesia’s foreign policy and global proﬁle have always been based on its ability to harness the country’s normative and moral voice. Second, while democratization since 1998 has allowed Indonesia to restore its reputation in world affairs and provided it with a new source of “soft power”, it has also complicated foreign policy-making. Third, Indonesia’s large geographical size and population have been a source of persistent internal security threats, and because the government has been unable to meet national defence requirements, the growth in its defence diplomacy activities reﬂect the country’s continuing strategic weakness rather than its strength
"How do we know a successful foreign policy when we see one?," The Jakarta Post, October 25, 2016
"How do we engage a hegemonic China?," The Jakarta Post, October 12, 2016
"Can there be ASEAN centrality without unity?," The Jakarta Post, September 6, 2016
"Is Indonesia militarising the South China Sea?, The Jakarta Post, July 11, 2016
2011. “Variations on a Theme: Dimensions of Ambivalence in Indonesia-China Relations,” Harvard Asia Quarterly 13 (1): pp. 24-31
Is Indonesia finally joining the Chinese bandwagon? Upon taking a closer look at the evolution in the bilateral relations, however, the answer to this question is not so straightforward. Indeed, the picture of Indonesia’s policy towards China is not a simple question of hedging, balancing, band-wagoning, or some variation of the three — though many analyses of Southeast Asian responses to China’s rise focus on these specific strategies. This paper argues instead that, when located within the broader evolution of Indonesia-China relations, Jakarta’s policy towards China is that of persistent ambivalence and ambiguity. This paper aims to explain the ambivalence in Indonesia–China relations by assessing its four main dimensions: domestic politics, economics, strategic and security, and regional and foreign policy. These dimensions of ambivalence largely originate from deep-rooted sentiments and from the perceptions of the Indonesian public and elite, which are in turn shaped by a long history of mutual interaction, the place of ethnic Chinese-Indonesians in Indonesian society, as well as by China’s geographic proximity.
"A post-non-claimant South China Sea policy," The Jakarta Post, June 20, 2016
"Here's why Jakarta doesn't push back when China barges into Indonesian waters," Washington Post's Monkey Cage, April 28, 2016
"Jakarta left all at sea by island clash with China," New Mandala, April 5, 2016
"The domestic politics of Jakarta's South China Sea policy," The Interpreter, April 1, 2016
2011. “The Enduring Strategic Trinity: Explaining Indonesia’s Geopolitical Architecture,” Journal of the Indian Ocean Region 7 (1): pp. 95-116
This paper seeks to describe and assess the geopolitical architecture of Indonesia as the largest archipelagic state in the world. It makes two main inter-related arguments. First, Indonesia’s geographical traits suggest that it could be both a source of weakness and vulnerability as much as it brings enormous potential for political, economic, and even military power. Second, the historical origins and conceptual foundations of ‘geopolitics’ as a policy theme suggest that Indonesia’s geopolitical architecture is based on three building blocks the ‘strategic trinity’: geostrategy (the military and security dimensions), geoeconomics (the resource and economic dimensions), and geopolitics (the social and political dimensions). While these arguments are not novel in themselves, this paper represents among the first attempts to systematically analyse and assess Indonesia’s geographical traits and how they shape the country’s strategic thinking, foreign policy, and national security system. The paper will also consider how Indonesia’s geopolitical architecture could help explain the country’s resurgent interest in the Indian Ocean Region in recent years.
"Strategi politik luar negeri menghadapi NIIS," Kompas, January 20, 2016
"Perubahan arus lingkungan strategis Indonesia," Kompas, December 9, 2015
"A way forward for Indonesia-Australia relations," The Interpreter, May 28, 2105
"Indonesia’s new president can deepen cooperation with United States and Europe," GMF Transatlantic Take, August 15, 2014.
"Why there is no new ‘maritime dispute’ between Indonesia and China," The Strategist, April 4, 2014
Policy research reports and working papers
2010. “The Quest for the “Middle Way”: Indonesian Perspectives on Current Developments in Myanmar,” in Current Realities and Future Possibilities in Burma/Myanmar: Perspectives from Asia, Task Force on U.S. Policy toward Burma/ Myanmar (New York: The Asia Society) (With Rizal Sukma)
2010. Evan A. Laksmana and Hadi Soesastro, “Indonesia” in Does Fairness Matter?, ed. Hakan Altinay, Global Economy and Development Working Paper, No. 40 (Washington: Brookings Institution), pp. 17-19
2008. Evan A. Laksmana and Leonard C. Sebastian (editors), The Future of Indonesia beyond 2014, RSIS Conference Report (Singapore: S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies)
Jakarta Eyes the South China Sea,”The Diplomat, 23 February 2011
"U.S., Indonesia must avoid false promises and pitfalls", World Politics Review, 26 March 2010
"RI’s changing geo-strategic currents", The Jakarta Post, January 9, 2010