Why Indonesia Chooses Autonomy Over BRICS

Since 2011, the BRICS, a forum of emerging powers whose members include Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, have seen Indonesia as a hot accession candidate if observers decide to enlarge their club.

During the recent BRICS summit held in South Africa in August 2023, Indonesia was on the card of the five BRICS member governments when China persuaded its reluctant partners to invite new members to the forum.

The country’s potential value to BRICS is obvious. It is the world’s fourth-largest populous country, a rapidly growing economy that is poised to become one of the world’s top five economies by 2045, and a leading power in Southeast Asia, a strategically important region contested by the United States and China. Influence.

But surprisingly, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Ethiopia were among the six countries selected from among the 23 countries that submitted letters of interest, and Indonesia was not. Indonesian President Joko 'Jokowi’ Widodo announced to the Indonesian government to the public He decided not to issue a letter of interest Because it doesn’t want to rush membership.

According to Jokowi, the government needs more time to consult with its ASEAN partners to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of BRICS membership, especially in the economy.

This is the official version, but peeling the surface reveals the deeper motives behind Indonesia’s decision not to join BRICS.

One reason is that Indonesia’s foreign policy has a long tradition of non-alignment. Aggressive Chinese efforts to expand BRICS are causing alarm in Jakarta, evoking Cold War-era tensions against the hegemony of the US and its Western allies.

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BRICS is soon to become BRICS+ with the addition of six new members, but Indonesia will not be among them. Image: Screengrab / Twitter

Joining the BRICS will be read in the West as signaling a shift towards the Chinese camp. This is seen as a major shift in Indonesia’s hedging and issue-balancing policy, under which Jakarta leans more towards the US on security issues and China on economic issues. The credibility of the country is ancient Free and active Or the „free and active” doctrine would suffer.

Following BRICS expansion, the forum is increasingly seen in the West as a geopolitical vehicle for China and Russia. This means that Indonesia needs to carefully gauge its position. Indonesia’s failure to unequivocally condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — a flagrant violation of international norms of sovereignty, territorial integrity and peaceful conflict resolution, to which Indonesia openly subscribes — has raised eyebrows in the West.

The same applies to Indonesia’s negotiations for a free trade area with the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union. To join BRICS Increased Western irritation.

A further tilt towards Russia and China affects relations with the West. As BRICS is a very diverse forum, membership will come with higher transaction costs for Indonesia after enlargement.

Indonesia should devote enormous diplomatic resources to BRICS to ensure its integration with Indonesia’s national interests. BRICS integration would also compromise Indonesia’s much-cherished goal of being a „good global citizen”.

Indonesia’s identity in international relations differs markedly from that of other members of the BRICS. While Indonesia shares BRICS members’ deep dissatisfaction with the current international order, it has been airing demands for reform in more conciliatory and conciliatory language.

It is no coincidence that Indonesia joined MIKTA in 2013, a forum comprising Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey and Australia, which seeks to act as a „constructive multilateralist”, a „bridge builder” and a „force for good”.

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While MIKTA’s effectiveness as a bridging agency and mediator is debatable, Indonesia’s moderation has helped maintain open channels of dialogue with the Global North while advocating for the interests of the Global South. Indonesia has been invited to speak as a guest at both the Western G7 and BRICS.

The Indonesian government is also not convinced of the economic benefits of joining BRICS. Despite not being a BRICS member, Indonesia is closely aligned economically with China, its largest trading partner and major investor.

Trade with China dwarfs trade with other BRICS member states, including new members. BRICS membership is not required to maintain close economic ties with Beijing and can be encouraged bilaterally.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indonesian President Joko Widodo embrace warmly at the G20 Summit in Bali. Image: Facebook / Pool

Indonesian economists do not consider BRICS’ new development bank A particularly attractive option To finance the investment needs of the country. With an initial subscribed capital of US$50 billion, it clearly trails other development banks such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

Key figures in the Indonesian cabinet, such as Finance Minister and former World Bank Managing Director Sri Mulyani Indravati and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Opposed to joining BRICS And even when pleading for reform of Western-dominated financial institutions, there may be too much hope.

BRICS integration could also jeopardize Indonesia’s efforts As the third Asian member of the OECD. As Indonesia’s development still lags far behind South Korea’s allowed level and accession is a long process, not joining BRICS could be used as leverage for Indonesia to accelerate OECD membership.

Not joining BRICS reflects Indonesia’s foreign policy pragmatism, a key dimension of the country Free Active theory Originally created by founding father Mohammad Hatta. Indonesia is unlikely to abandon this proven strategy in a highly volatile international political environment.

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Jürgen Ruland is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Freiburg, Germany.

This is Article It was originally published by East Asia Forum and is republished under a Creative Commons license.

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