Thursday, December 8, 2022

Capital Relocation and Further Strengthening Indonesia’s Foreign Policy

Andreas Brian Bagaskoro Bayuseno

Department of International Relations Alumni, Universitas Diponegoro


Indonesia’s foreign policy which is based on the constitution reflects its multicultural society, identity, and global perspective. In line with this statement, it is believed that Indonesia’s domestic situation has a significant impact on foreign policy. As a current debate, Indonesia’s government is in the process where its capital will be relocated from Jakarta to North Penajem Pasar and officially named Nusantara. As domestic affairs defines foreign policy, this article raised the question of how this relocation is associated with foreign policy.

Indonesia’s foreign policy strategy might be different based on the current political circumstance and the current administration. As an example, Indonesia’s foreign policy goals under President Soekarno is to secure international recognition and handle the western act of aggression (Haryanto, 2016). Nevertheless, different objectives and schemes were decided by President Soeharto. His priority was the national development sector and regional leadership, which resulted in Indonesia’s participation as the founding father of ASEAN  (Haryanto, 2016). The latest Indonesia’s priority introduced in the 4+1 Indonesia’s Foreign Policy Priority prioritizes economic diplomacy, protection diplomacy, sovereignty and nationality diplomacy, and Indonesia’s role in the region and global society (Kementerian Luar Negeri Republik Indonesia, 2020). This historical description proves that foreign policy is dynamic and influenced by many aspects, one of them is the domestic situation.

Overall, this article tries to extend the discussion regarding capital relocation and offer an alternative analysis from international relations perspective (especially the concept of power). As a result, this article believes that capital relocation not only affects domestically, but it is beneficial for the intensifying and enhancement of Indonesia’s foreign policy. This article strongly argues that capital relocation affects Indonesia’s future foreign policy. In addition, this article will broaden the capital relocation discussion and try to provide another perspective, based on international relations perspective.

Theoretical Framework

The analysis continues with the theoretical framework aspect, focused on international relations studies, mainly the concept of power as a foreign policy instrument. Power is defined as one of the most common essential instruments in the foreign policy field. It refers to individual skill, group, agency, actor, and institution to influence the opposite group, partner, ally behavior so that they do or do not do something in line with the group purpose that has the power (Widyaatmaja, 2016). Moreover, power has at least two main elements which emphasize tangible and intangible (Widyaatmaja, 2016). The latter include physical elements, demography, natural resource, industry, communication and information line, agriculture, and military, whereas the former include government, citizens, security, and reputation.

Power with intangible and tangible elements as power elements branches into two main sides, which are soft power and hard power. Soft power is the ability to attract and persuade another actor by using their influence so that actors act as they wish, whereas hard power is the use of military force and economic inducement (Nye, 2005). Nowadays, soft power is the more functional and efficient concept in contemporary domestic and global politics due to its endurance and sustainability (Content & Wagner, 2014). However, hard power is less convenient today as the global system changes in its disfavour (Content & Wagner, 2014). Focused on soft power, it derives from the expression of national value, public policy and its practice, and how the state maintains relations with other actors. Moreover, soft power derives from a state’s ability to establish a benchmark for another state in global politics (Nye, 2005).

Case Overview and Analysis

A capital city is characterized as a multifunctional city that emphasizes diplomatic representation, governmental institution, and economic center that reflects the state’s character (Isheda & Guoqing, 2019). Moreover, managing a capital city is a great responsibility due to the major role of political, economic, and social culture. Therefore, incomprehensive policy and mismanagement will cause urban problems. Problems arising from mismanagement include economic and political centralization, economic inequality, poor transportation systems, high poverty rates, unemployment, and horizontal conflict (Ishenda & Guoqing, 2019). Current Indonesia’s capital city Jakarta and the national economic epicenter are also the subjects of those disputes. Consequently, Jakarta’s long severe burden is considered one of the rational relocation arguments, followed by other arguments such as urbanization rate, economic development, and equitable development (Said, 2022). This argument is also in line with the research by Ilma (2015) which indicated the 5 reasons behind a capital relocation are national development, spread regional development, the issues of the capital city, reduce the threat, and decision of the leader (Illmann, 2015). Furthermore, Jakarta will then be relocated at a distance of about 1200 km on another island of the archipelago from Jakarta (Java Island) to North Penajem Pasar (Kalimantan) (Romero et al., 2020.). The new capital city location spread across 3.333sq km with a total population of 166,554 (Farida, 2021). From a geostrategic aspect, Kalimantan was appointed due to several aspects such as the central location, origin of prime energy component for a national purpose, the main source of water, lowest population density, and low rate of earthquake and economy (Nasruddin, 2013).

This research analyses that the capital relocation profoundly affects the intangible component of Indonesia’s power in international relations. Intangible component emphasizes the interconnected elements such as government, citizens, military (security), and reputation (Wijatmadja, 2016). At a first glance, the consistency of the relocation process will show how the administrative competence and leader’s capacity to handle the uncertainty in capital relocation will be seen as determinant points for national power and lead to international trust or reputation (Wijatmadja, 2016). In this particular relocation, one of the reflections of Indonesia’s bureaucracies could be shown. If the domestic circumstances are handled properly by the government or the bureaucracy, Indonesia will be considered capable and gain international trust. This trust will increase Indonesia’s soft power, due to it generating a preference for other foreign actors and leading to Indonesia’s good reputation. This link between trust and reputation will be elaborated in the fourth point (reputation). Second, the people and their way of life also play an influential role. National character and personality are the foundation of civil society’s character (Wijatmadja, 2016). A shameful act from political and stakeholder figures that will hamper the relocation are ineffective policy, corruption, nepotism, and collusion. Therefore, it has to be successfully prosecuted. Furthermore, this political culture could be seen in the relocation and generate a negative image, and international public distrusts. Hence, it decreases Indonesia’s bargaining power in international politics and diplomacy. Similarly, the security of this project could be seen by the active role of police institutions and military bodies to secure the project. As an additional fact, the new location could derive from a variety of aspects and perspectives in different areas such as sea, air, and field.

Based on the terrorism study, the location of new capital city is closed to the triangle transit terrorism zone which emphasizes Sulu, Sabah, and Poso (Firmansyah, 2019). Moreover, Kalimantan Island is passed by the transnational crime line which led to human trafficking, illicit drug, and weapons smuggling. It happened due to the location of Kalimantan, especially the Nusantara zone, which is regarded as the choke point based on the international sea route. In addition, this zone itself is also included in the international security alliance radar such as The Five Power Defense Arrangements (FPDA) and AUKUS Australia, England, and the United State of America (Firmansyah, 2019). Due to these circumstances, security will be at the top priority. The domestic and international public will see how securing the new capital city location is to handle the further threat. Third, new military equipment and mechanisms in the new capital will be seen as the enhancement of Indonesia’s power. Nevertheless, not only do military troops take responsibility for the security aspects but citizens are also taking part to ensure it. The fourth element and last, the success of this relocation affects Indonesia’s reputation in international politics. As stated by the President, this relocation is part of the massive transformation in the country (Translation Office of Assistant to Deputy Cabinet Secretary for State Documents, 2022). The transformation itself stresses city innovation, a technology-based, green environment, and a digital economy.  To bear this massive transformation in mind, Indonesia’s good reputation in international relations society is at stake. Global trust and foreign actor (as an observer) perception will slowly fall if the relocation does not execute as it is planned. In addition, the success will lead to global trust and good perception which increase Indonesia’s prestige and its success value. Prestige and success for a country are two aspects of international politics that are two of the attractions for foreign actors as a reference and willing to follow the nation’s wishes (Henderson, 1998). Other’s attractions that led to the enhancement of soft power are ideology and culture (Henderson, 1998).

In continuity, the intangible component of power which emphasizes government, citizens, security, and reputation is a determinant of Indonesia’s soft power. The success of this relocation will provide an inside for foreign actors to trust and engage in a bilateral relationship with Indonesia. This is no coincidence since attraction such as prestige and the success of a state (mentioned earlier) play a major role in a nation’s soft power (Henderson, 1998). In addition, these attractions are also in line with the main source definition of soft power by Nye which is derived from culture, political value, and policy (Nye, 2005). The success of the relocation could be presented as bargaining value in diplomatic practice. In line, capital relocation will be presented as Indonesia’s international capability and can be an example for the international community. It provides the opportunity to establish a preference for other state or international bodies. In a global forum, Indonesia’s capability in making a statement with their domestic situation as an example will lead to a trust and strategic position in the forum. This will help Indonesia to achieve its national interest. Indeed, the international capability (influenced by the capital relocation) will significantly contribute to Indonesia in achieving its national interest. (Wijatmadja, 2016) This national interest in domestic (particularly in capital relocation topic) and international circumstances is in line with a country’s objective which embodies the four goals of a nation which are security, autonomy, welfare, status and prestige (Holsti, 1992). The success of the relocation will prove that Indonesia is a secure state with its defence mechanism or equipment, an autonomy state which builds this capital based on their economy and science, a welfare state which is reflected by the new capital city, and it is a prestige from international recognition. Therefore, the success of capital relocation will strengthen Indonesia’s foreign policy.


The capital relocation process will influence Indonesia’s foreign policy, mainly in national soft power. Firstly, the relocation process reflects intangible elements which are the government, citizens, security, and reputation. The consistency of the relocation process will show the administrative competence and leader’s capacity to handle the uncertainty in capital relocation, national character and personality, national security and the success of relocation. Those four elements will be seen as determinant points for national soft power. Moreover, the success of the relocation proves that Indonesia is a secure state, autonomy, welfare state, and with international recognition. This success led to a global reputation and trust which affected the international preference of Indonesia. A good preference will be significant for Indonesia in diplomatic practice to secure further Indonesia bilateral agreement to achieve national interest.


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