More talk than walk: Indonesia as a foreign policy actor

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In a new Lowy Institute Analysis Dr Dave McRae argues that Indonesia is unlikely to become a significantly influential international actor in the medium term, despite its size, strategic location and economic potential.

“Indonesia’s rising prominence in the world as much reflects its anticipated future influence as it does its current power”, said author Dr Dave McRae.

Indonesia aspires to be a global player and faces strong public expectation to exert a broad influence. But it lacks the resources to flex its muscles in support of its foreign policy ideas”, he said.

Despite rising tensions between Australia and Indonesia, McRae argues it is unlikely that Indonesia’s bilateral relationship with Australia will become a key feature of Indonesian foreign policy in the coming years.

“Outside of periodic bilateral spats, Australia can appear invisible in Indonesia’s foreign policy discussions”, said McRae.

In More talk than walk: Indonesia as a foreign policy actor McRae assesses what kind of international actor Indonesia will be in the short to medium term.

He identifies four key features that will define Indonesia’s foreign policy: it will project the image of a great power despite its middle power abilities; it will remain non-aligned but leaning towards the United States; ASEAN will continue to be a key platform for Indonesia’s regional and international aspirations; and it will take up Muslim concerns rather than having a distinctly Islamic foreign policy.


This Analysis was completed as part of the Lowy Institute’s Engaging Asia Project which was established with the financial support of the Australian Government. 

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