Indonesia's Place in a Changing World: The Central Core of a Foreign Policy

by H. E. ALI SASTROAMIDJOJO, Prime Minister of The Republic of Indonesia


THE foreign policy of any state is not, in many senses, something which is freely decided upon and subject to easy and rapid change. Tactics of foreign policy may be fluid; the diplomacy which seeks to implement policy may be adaptable. In its essence, however, in its strategy, the foreign policy of any state must conform to certain immutable factors. Among these constants in a world of variables are the geography and geology of the country, the character, soul, or national color of its people, and the nation’s history and past experience.

It sometimes happens, of course, that what was once a constant factor does undergo change. Then, new traditions, new forms, and new applications of foreign policy are required. That was the case with the United States after the Second World War, when she emerged as incomparably the greatest industrial power and when, at the same time, the effective industrial power of the rest of the world had been greatly reduced. When such a change occurs, a new foreign policy is needed. Yet a new foreign policy, since it is virtually without tradition or precedent, is usually subject to many experiments and modifications before its pattern becomes fixed.

Indonesia entered the modern world as an independent and sovereign state in 1945. She had no traditions of foreign policy, because for oxer three hundred years she had been a colony without a voice. She had no recent precedents to guide her. Before the colonial era, however, the Indonesian archipelago had had a long history of internationalism. Indonesia’s position in the world before the colonial period was similar in some respects to her position now. That is, she had great cultural variety; she was peopled with immigrants from many lands—from India, from China and all Southeast Asia, and even from the far-off Arab count ries — and was a center of international trade. Thus, we may say that my country’s policies in 1956 — the direction of her economic development and her international outlook as expressed in the United Nations and elsewhere—have grown out of a centuries-old pattern of history culminating in the Indonesian Proclamation of Independence on August 17, 1945. The national character of Indonesia was so strong, so firmly grounded, that it was able to survive more than three centuries of colonial dominat ion.

In its practical application, it may be said that the essence of Indonesia’s foreign policy is anticolonialism and the support of peace.

For us, as for most of Asia and Africa, colonialism is not a thing of “strange, far-off stories and battles long ago.”We have known colonialism. We have felt its rod on the backs of our own people, and we have seen the children of our own nation stunted and thwarted, mentally and physically, by it. Part of my own count ry, West Irian (West New Guinea), is still held in its grip. For us, colonialism, from whichever quarter it comes, is an evil thing, a thing we reject and will oppose. Anyone who seeks to minimize the strength of Asia’s anticolonialism, or to equate that anticolonialism with communism, is deluding himself. It is just as wrong to think that anti-imperialism and anticolonialism mean the same as procommunism as it would be to think that anticommunism means the same as procolonialism.

Indonesia’s opposition to colonialism and her efforts for peace are founded on clear philosophical principles. The national motto: “Bhinneka Tunggal Ika” may be translated as “Unity Through Diversity.” The concept of unity is the core of a set of beliefs derived from our ancient civilization. These are stated in the Constitution as the PantjaSila (pronounced: pancha seela), or Five Principles. Here, the influence of Islam can also be recognized. Briefly, the five postulates are:

1. Belief in God, and in religious freedom for all.

2. Humanitarianism, or internationalism. A respect for humanity throughout the world.

3. Nationalism. Belief in the national unity of all In donesia.

4. Democracy. The principle of sovereignty vested in the people through representative government.

5. Social Justice. Belief in the social and economic equality, as well as the political equality, of everyone in the nation.

Another powerful basic concept of our cultural heritage is called ”rukun,” or the “spirit of conciliation.” This means that, in cases of conflict, the guiding principle must be to find a reasonable solution that will eliminate all traces of resentment. In line with this, it is our belief that it is never too late to negotiate — in the UN or elsewhere.

Indonesia’s position in the world today is that, with rukun and its kindred principle of gotongroyong (mutual assistance), we must try to help ourselves to national fulfillment, and play our part in efforts to find the way to peace.


VIEWED from the standpoint of the political philosophy summed up in the Pantja-Sila, it is easily understood that as a basis of her foreign policy, Indonesia is determined to establish and maintain good relations with all nations of the world.

Logically, of course, wo are first attempting to establish good relations with our neighboring countries, but these efforts are not confined to the nations of Asia and Africa only. As a member of the UN, we are not in fa vor of discriminating against any nation in the world.

It is quite clear that the greatest part of our time and effort must be spent in making ourselves secure, both economically and politically. For us, the maintenance of world peace is dictated not simply by the moral motives that may impel some other nations. For us there is a far more practical and compelling reason: we cannot desist for even one moment from our reconstruction efforts. The task of forging the structure of our new state is so great and so urgent that we cannot allow anything to interfere with its accomplishment. Another world holocaust would mean the end of all our dreams of self-determination, the loss of all that we have so recently and so dearly achieved. If follows that our foreign policy is deliberately committed to the preservation of peace.

I think that we can assume that the people of all nations desire peace. All governments, too, have proclaimed that aim. Unfortunately, certain blocs have posed conditions for a just peace that other nations will not accept. Hence, although all countries in theory desire peace, there is an ever-present danger that these hostile interpretations of what is right for the world may topple all nations into a catastrophe.

In this situation Indonesia’s position is, very simply, to do everything possible to ease the tensions that might lead the world into war. We do not regard peace as a luxury, or as something merely preferable to war. We think that peace is an absolute value and therefore a necessity. The view of my people and government is that, if it is humanly possible, there must be peace. We have always worked in this direction, both within and outside of the UN, and will continue to do so.

That is why my government is conducting an independent foreign policy. This does not mean the same thing as a neutral policy in world affairs, since the very basis of this foreign policy is our own national interest as predominantly determined by our national reconstruction effort.

We describe this foreign policy as being independent and active. It is a policy of nonalignment, and certainly not one of neutrality. The term “neutrality” is one which is applied correctly only in time of war. It refers to belligerency and nonbelligerency; it may imply inaction or even indifference. It has no connection with the independence at which we aim. Our aim is an independence designed to strengthen and uphold peace.

An independent policy allows us, on a basis of mutual respect, to be friendly to all nations, to avoid all enmities and preserve ourselves from the damage that, would follow from taking sides. But. that is not enough. An independent policy alone could be a negative policy. It is necessary also to be active, to work energetically for the preservation of peace and the relaxation of tensions generated by the two great world power blocs.

This independent and active policy has been elaborated against a background of political philosophy which underlies the Republic of Indonesia politically as well as morally. My country’s refusal to align herself with either camp in this divided world is based upon the profound belief that such action could only serve further to unbalance the already unstable balance of power. Our present intention is not to praise or condemn anyone in the current unhappy state of world affairs. I will, however, lay emphasis on our belief that Indonesia so passionately treasures her new-found freedom and independence that she will resist with all her might any attempt from any source to undermine that freedom.

In this connection, the paramount factor is that we of Indonesia have but recently emerged from colonial obscurity to national independence. We have no intention of returning to colonial obscurity. That is true, I know, not only ol Indonesia, but ol the whole of Asia and Africa, and is therefore of importance for the entire world.

The area of conflict between the two great power blocs has moved from Europe to Asia. The cold war is upon us — and in some places in Asia a shooting war also. The peoples of Asia have done their utmost to prevent fighting, and to quench the flames wherever they have broken out. The conference of five Asian Prime Ministers at Colombo in 1954 had a direct and immediate effect on the Geneva Conference which was discussing IndoChina. The nations of Asia intervened there, and intervened successfully. The world saw that Asian problems cannot any longer be solved without consulting Asian nations. This was not an insignificant turning point in international aflairs.

It was a turning point, but the road is still long. The principles of Colombo and of Geneva must be followed up. The nations of Asia have friends, with the same problems and hopes and fears, on the African continent. A close co-operation can be achieved between us. This can only lead to an immense strengthening of the forces of peace.

The strength of the whole is always greater than the strength of the individual parts. The strength of a close Asian-African co-operation will be great, politically as well as morally. It will be a power in the world, even if its military strength is small; its power will be devoted to the maintenance of peace. The voice of resurgent Asia and Africa cannot be ignored any longer.

The encouragement of good will, friendliness, and good neighborliness among the nations of Asia and Africa is an important task with far-reaching consequences. In particular, it will allow us to estimate and evaluate more precisely the contribution which these nations, individually and collectively, can make to the firm establishment of international peace and co-operation.

The conference at Bandung in 19,55 was the first time in history that twenty-nine independent nations of Asia and Africa met to discuss their common problems and also world problems. More than half the population of the world was represented there and voiced its opinions concerning its anxieties in today’s world of tensions.

We sought to know more of each other. We hoped to break down the artificial barriers which have long divided us and to place our united strength at the service of peace in the world.

That is why the first Asian-African Conference was an event of great significance in the history ol mankind as well as a tremendous step forward in formulating and clarifying New Indonesia’s foreign policy.