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For Indonesia, Maintaining Zero Enemies is Harder Than You Think

Of course, the counterargument is always the thing with sovereignty. Indeed, even naming a battleship is a sovereign right of a state. Yet as no man is an island, no state stands on its own. I don’t see any harm by avoiding controversy and instead naming the battleship using a less controversial name, right?

Also with Australia. A few days ago, I attended this discussion with former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia, John Anderson. He was a kind and nice person, and he believed that what happened between Indonesia and Australia is unnecessary, while of course recognizing that both countries’ relations had often marred with misconceptions and misunderstandings. Well, actually, not only due to the eavesdropping controversy. Lately, Australia has been pushing hard to prevent asylum seekers from entering Australia–so much so that it is believed that the Australian Navy has trespassed to Indonesia’s territory.

Good friends, you say? Probably, if not due to this bellicose mentality. Now, Indonesia is deploying battleships and preparing airplanes, of which “Australia is reachable from there.” This shows, if you think today’s international relations is filled with friendliness, peace, avoidance of conflict: think again.

These examples show how it is harder than expected for Indonesia to maintain its “one million friends, zero enemies” foreign policy, no matter how good it sounds. Indeed, Indonesia has always had this one particular “not a friend, not an enemy because we believe it does not exist” (a quote from this government official that I got), which is Israel. But Australia and Singapore are practically the closest neighbors to Indonesia as you can get, and to have spats with your closest neighbors–literally both shoulders almost shrug each other–you will realize that things are not going so well.

Indonesia has been strangely proud in this tension, and it is rather painful to see, considering Indonesia’s foreign policy has been very successful in recent years to maintain good relations with practically anyone. Even if the problem comes from the neighbors, it may be difficult for Indonesia to play the peacemaker.

See, for Indonesia, it is harder than we all think to maintain a million friends and zero enemies.

* Note: Allen Lawrence Pope is an American pilot, apprehended in 1959 within the Indonesian territory and accused of supporting the PRRI/PERMESTA rebellion. Sentenced to death, he was released in 1962.

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