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Indonesia: Sukarno's Foreign Policy
Country Study > Chapter 1 > Historical Setting > Independence: the First Phases, 1950-65 > Sukarno's Foreign Policy

SUKARNO'S FOREIGN POLICY


The international scene was, for Sukarno, a gigantic stage upon which a dramatic confrontation between (as he termed them) the New Emerging Forces and Old Established Forces was played out in the manner of the wayang contest between the virtuous Pandawas and the evil Kurawas. With the assistance and support of the PKI, Sukarno attempted to forge a "Jakarta-Phnom Penh-Beijing-Hanoi- Py'ngyang axis" in order to combat Neocolonialism, Colonialism, and Imperialism (Nekolim). Although the Soviet Union was a major supplier of arms and economic aid, relations with China through official and PKI channels were growing close, particularly in 1964- 65.

Continued Dutch occupation of West New Guinea led to a break in diplomatic relations between Jakarta and The Hague in 1960. In December of that year, Sukarno established a special military unit, the Army Strategic Reserve Command (Kostrad), also known as the Mandala Command, based in Ujungpandang, to "recover" the territory. Full-scale war, however, was averted when a compromise was worked out under United States auspices in which West New Guinea was first turned over to UN and then to Indonesian administration. The UN replaced the Dutch on October 1, 1962, and in May 1963, Indonesian authority was established. The so-called Act of Free Choice, a UNsanctioned and -monitored referendum to discover whether the population, mostly Papuans living in tribal communities, wanted to join the republic, was held in 1969. Community leaders representing the various sectors of society were chosen by consensus at local level meetings and then met among themselves at the village, district, and provincial levels to discuss affiliation. Only these community leaders could vote and they approved incorporation unanimously. Criticism of the process by foreign observers and suspicions of pressure on the voting leaders threw its legitimacy into question.

Hostility to Malaysia, which was established on September 16, 1963, as a union of states of the Malay Peninsula, Singapore, and the North Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak, sprang from Sukarno's belief that it would function as a base from which Nekolim forces could subvert the Indonesian revolution. Malaysia's conservative prime minister, Tengku Abdul Rahman, had agreed to the continued basing of British armed forces in the country, and Sukarno could not forget that the government of independent Malaya had given assistance to the PRRI rebels in 1958. In the wake of Malaysia's creation, a wave of anti-Malaysian and anti-British demonstrations broke out, resulting in the burning of the British embassy. PKI union workers seized British plantations and other enterprises, which were then turned over to the government.

On September 23, 1963, Sukarno, who had proclaimed himself President-for-Life, declared that Indonesia must "gobble Malaysia raw." Military units infiltrated Malaysian territory but were intercepted before they could establish contact with local dissidents. This action -- known as Confrontation -- soon involved Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and China. When the UN General Assembly elected Malaysia as a nonpermanent member of the Security Council in December 1964, Sukarno took Indonesia out of the world body and promised the establishment of a new international organization, the Conference of New Emerging Forces (Conefo), a fitting end, perhaps, for 1964, which Sukarno had called "A Year of Living Dangerously."

Data as of November 1992




Last Updated: November 1992


Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Indonesia was first published in 1993. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on Factba.se.

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