The politics of pride, prestige and power in contemporary Indonesia-Malaysia relations

Lai, Yew Meng and Maureen De Silva and Mohd Sohaimi Esa and Yusten Karulus and Yuddy Chrisnandi and Safrizal Rambe The politics of pride, prestige and power in contemporary Indonesia-Malaysia relations. (Unpublished)

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The bilateral relationship between Malaysia and its neighbour, Indonesia, has been traditionally marked by vacillation from periods of. remarkably warm and brotherly-like interactions, to distinctly tense and antagonistic exchanges. It is perhaps a "puzzle" for those who expect that kinship and cultural similarities, not to mention, deepening regional interdependence and integration would result in consistently warmer bilateral ties. Observers commonly emphasize the efficacy of nationalism and identity politics in explaining the rising temperature in contemporary Indonesia-Malaysia diplomacy (Liaw 2005a; Harun 2006). However, both governments' propensity in keeping excessive bilateral tensions at bay, while forging healthy economic exchanges and regional security cooperation suggest that nationalism may not necessarily be the driver of their contemporary bilateral ties. This study, thus, explicates the role of nationalism in defining Indonesia's external policy orientation that affected its contemporary relations wJth Malaysia (2005-2009). Interpreting from a Neoclassical Realist (NCR) perspective, it offers a theoretically informed examination about why, how, when, and the extent to which nationalism affects Jakarta's Malaysia policy­making, arguing that nationalism matters, and can be salient, albeit under specific external­domestic conditions and time period, as perceived and calculated by Indonesian state-elites. This is done by operationalizing and systematically assessing nationalism's efficacies vis-a-vis other external-domestic dynamics that simultaneously influence state-elites' policy-making, via an NCR Model of Nationalism and State Behaviour. Based on the systematic NCR-oriented investigation of two nationalist-flavoured bilateral issues, namely the "cultural heritage" and "Ambalat" maritime territorial disputes, this study found that nationalism (especially in the form of domestic nationalist pressure) mattered in Indonesia's foreign policy-making towards Malaysia, albeit to a qualified extent. As fittingly hypothesized, the salience of nationalism was, indeed, dependent on Indonesian state-elites' perceptions and calculation of the conditions related to its interactions with other external­domestic determinants (i.e. prevailing external environment, level of economic interdependence and diplomatic leverage vis-a-vis disputant-state, ASEAN regionalism, domestic political process/actors/competition) that concurrently influenced foreign policy­making, during a given time period. Specifically, this study found nationalism's efficacy to be relatively indeterminate under perceptively ambivalent external conditions, where an ambiguous relative power position, forged particularly by a combination of favourable external environment but unfavourable diplomatic leverage and lopsided interdependence vis-a-vis Malaysia as well as the ASEAN factor, tend to take precedence over domestic nationalist pressure and state-elites' personal nationalist conviction, when shaping Indonesia's policy options/responses towards Malaysia. It also found Indonesian state-elites to having the inclination to adopt a mixture of . "visibly assertive-nationalistic" policy responses that were subsequently mitigated by "moderate-conciliatory" measures, in order to satisfy both domestic nationalist demands and pragmatic external interests. Given the findings, this study concludes that nationalism is an ever-present and important foreign policy determinant, but not necessarily the primary driver of Indonesia's policy towards Malaysia. Overall, this study contributes theoretically to our understanding of nationalism's role in shaping the international relations/foreign policy-making of Asian states like Indonesia and Malaysia that are commonly affected by domestic nationalist impulses and identity politics. Specifically, the NCR Model's hospitability to domestic-ideational theorising can help bridge mainstream International Relations (IR) and • Domestic-Constructivist/Area-studies approaches to advance a comprehensive, albeit realist-oriented appreciation of nationalism in Indonesian-Malaysian diplomacy. Lastly, NCR's explanatory/predictive power can contribute to the toolbox of Malaysian foreign policy planners/decision-makers in their difficult tasks of dispensing optimal policy options that serve both our national and domestic interests.

Item Type: Research Report
Uncontrolled Keywords: Politics , Indonesia-Malaysia , nationalism
Subjects: J Political Science > JF Political institutions and public administration
Depositing User: NORAINI LABUK -
Date Deposited: 05 Mar 2020 08:25
Last Modified: 05 Mar 2020 08:25

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