Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi reaffirmed the Indonesian government’s commitment to finalize border negotiations – both land and sea – with its neighbors, and said the current administration has seen some progress after several talks were halted in 2003.
Speaking during a press briefing on foreign policy achievements under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s leadership at the Foreign Affairs Ministry on Thursday (26/10), Retno said Indonesia’s diplomatic efforts at issues of sovereignty have been greatly helped by a clear roadmap and active negotiations.
“We laid out a roadmap that shows us clearly when negotiations will take place, and we have carried out efforts to intensify these negotiations – which is important, because several of these discussions have been halted since 2003,” Retno told reporters.
Since 2015, Indonesia has engaged in a total of 86 negotiations with its neighbors on border issues, including with Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines and East Timor.
These negotiations have resulted in several breakthroughs, including Indonesia and Malaysia agreeing on a memorandum of understanding for a demarcation survey on the border of Indonesia’s Kalimantan and Malaysia’s Sabah.
Indonesia is also in the final stages of negotiations on two unresolved land border disputes with East Timor, the minister said.
Indonesia also ratified two maritime boundary agreements this year, one on the Indonesia-Singapore maritime border and the other on the boundaries in Indonesia’s and the Philippines’s overlapping exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the Mindanao Sea and Celebes Sea.
Earlier, the minister said Indonesia and Vietnam also need to negotiate the boundaries in their EEZ, following two incidents in the South China Sea — now called the North Natuna Sea by Indonesia
“It’s important to intensify these negotiations, because this isn’t an easy process and often takes a long time. However, we believe we will achieve progress,” Retno added.
Finalizing border negotiations with its neighbors is key if Indonesia were to achieve its ambition to become a global maritime fulcrum, as envisioned by Jokowi.
In July, the Southeast Asian country asserted its sovereignty by renaming the northern reaches of its EEZ in the South China Sea as the North Natuna Sea, prompting a response from China and adding a new layer to the regional dispute over the waters.
Indonesia has insisted that it is a non-claimant state in the South China Sea dispute, and officials said the decision to rename the waters did not change this position.
However, China has demanded that Indonesia revokes its decision to rename the waters, saying it is a “complication and expansion of the dispute, and affects peace and stability in the region.”
Maritime diplomacy will continue to play a role in Indonesia’s foreign policy under Jokowi’s administration — an aspect tightly linked with the country’s effort to settle border disputes and establish itself as a successful maritime nation.