The Rise of Nusantara (Part 2)

Malaysia and Indonesia as friends

In the previous entry, I have detailed out the imminent changes which occurred in the aftermath of the Malaysian 14th general election tsunami. The domino effects include how ASEAN leaders behave towards each other and how Asia is working towards a united force in their efforts to face the daunting economic challenges ahead.

We have to also admit that the Nusantara nations if combined could be one of the largest races in the world, apart from the Arabs, Africans, Caucasians, Persians, Chinese, and Indians. Amongst all the countries representing the genes of Nusantara people, Indonesia has the biggest share with almost 150 million people residing within thousands of Indonesian islands in the South East Asian region.

Indonesia is a country with huge potentials. Not only it is almost a homogeneous nation, but with its Pancasila ideology, Indonesia has thrived and risen from various foreign influences especially when they had achieved independence with great pride and style. However, due to the previous ideological differences with foreign superpowers, Indonesia had to undergo several political earthquakes and tsunamis, before they could taste a truly democratic rule.

Raja Majapahit in Action
An artist impression of a Srivijayan King who fought against the intruders within the Kingdom in the 8th Century, near the Malay Peninsular.

Malaysia and Indonesia have a very long colourful history. In the 13th-century, when Malacca started to overtake Srivijaya as the leading trading hub in the region, war and battles erupted between the two kingdoms. Not only that, other regional kingdoms such as Majapahit, Acheh, Sulu and the Thais were kept at bay with clever diplomatic strategies by Malacca. Malaysia in the eyes of Indonesia is like a smaller brother who has achieved great fortune at the expense of the big brother. It is a non-secret for Indonesia to have a slight jealousy over Malaysia, but this is not the case when Muslim issues are taken into context. Malaysian and Indonesian Muslims if combined, are the most populous nations in the world, overtaking Arabian Peninsula as a whole. This has not taken other states such as Brunei and other minorities within the region into account.

But, Islamic issue is not the main contention between Malaysia and Indonesia. As Malaysia’s latest philosophy changes towards a more inclusive administration, the “prosper thy neighbors” slogan will become a major declaration of diplomatic missions in the future. Indonesia understands this very well when Dr. Mahathir met the Indonesian counterpart, President Jokowi in June this year. Mahathir had set the standard previously by showing the rest of regional politicians and leaders how to deal with the economic problems and internal oppositions. He even came back to power in style, making the rest of other leaders in the region become just mere students in comparison.

However, looking at the great achievements that Tun Mahathir and his comrades shown after the last General Election in May, the other old guards from the neighboring countries started to set a fresher and a newer “dream”. Prabowo Subianto from the Gerindra party is set to contest again in the upcoming Pemilu of Indonesia. This could be his 3rd time trying to win the support of the Indonesian people to become the next President of Indonesia. The latest development where SBY, the short form of former President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, made an official declaration of support can become a trigger point of a political tsunami that can bury Jokowi’s dream of continuing for another term.

Suharto and Mahathir
Mahathir and Suharto were the most popular figures yet being labeled as “dictators” in the past by the western media.

Despite the supports from ulama’s factions and Democratic Party, winning the upcoming presidential election will not be an easy task for Prabowo. He has to manage the negative association between him and the previous Suharto’s administration, which could deter the supports from the Democrats. The only chance that one can think of is to whether Indonesian leaders who wanted to win the upcoming election can ride the similar tsunami from the old guards of Malaysia, who switched sides from the older “protectionism” mentality towards a more inclusive and open approach of administration.

Nusantara and ASEAN’s future remains to be seen. The recent ASEAN Summit has not produced any concrete solutions in many areas including the problems of the genocide of Rohingyas in Myanmar and South China sea water issues. Indonesia, as the biggest and most respectable country in the region, must rise and cooperate together with Malaysia to champion the issues of Muslims in Asia and reviving the Nusantara’s economic aspirations.

suharto resigns
Most of the later Indonesian generations have almost forgotten the episode when Suharto stepped down as the longest serving President of Indonesia after more than 30 years of power. That was after the economic turmoil that hit the Asian region in the late 1990s, where Mahathir implemented yet another brave solution called, “Currency Pegging” the Mahathir’s way. Since then, Mahathir was seen as an Asian hero, who taught the western capitalists a lesson, and never to under-estimate the Asians ever again.

As Indonesian rupiah dives towards the lowest level since 10 years after the 1997 Financial Crisis that saw the exit of Mr. Suharto, Malaysia’s leadership can again become Indonesia’s most trusted “smaller brother” where jealousy should no longer become the Gog and Magog’s wall built by Alexander the Great thousands of years ago. These two nations should become brothers again, as it was during the era of Mahathir’s first term and Suharto. This time around, it should be from the other side of the coin.

If my analysis is correct, and when Prabowo wins the upcoming election, the whole world would again focus towards ASEAN and started to feel the uneasiness feeling of when the Asian Tigers roar. Like during the 1990s, the Asian Tigers including South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia were amongst the major trading partner of the United States. Only when the US gave too much attention to the Dragon a.k.a. The Big Brother, then these smaller Tigers sat down and became too preoccupied with spoon-fed loans and bonds (from the IMF). After many years of misunderstanding of true economic fundamentals, now it is the time where Asians should unite and grow stronger than before.

In order for Asia to grow stronger, they have to ensure that ASEAN grows stronger too. This is because, ASEAN is not just a tiny region without any capabilities, but rather a huge region with enormous potentials. If water areas are taken into consideration, ASEAN is a region with vast resources, spaces, and economic capabilities, three to four times higher than China itself. Therefore, it is not a surprise to understand why China and the other superpowers scrambled quickly towards ASEAN Summit or any Free Trade negotiations when an opportunity arises.

Just beside the region, Australia and New Zealand, being the only hopes for the US and Western civilization in countering any Asian true ideologies, started to feel uneasy with the latest development in Asia. Thanks to the “Trade War’s” brilliant tactic by the Trump administration, now Asia will become united once again like during the era of Silk Road, Edo Empire, Malacca’s Trading Hub and Arabian Nights. Unfortunately, perhaps this initiative had just arrived at the wrong timing.

In the next writing, we must try to analyze, what might happen in the future if Thailand and the Philippines started to take similar steps in trying to improvise the maturity of their internal politics. The more wisdom they put in their political strategy, the higher the chances they can win (together with the other ASEAN nations) at the international arena.

Mahathir cried
Mahathir was seen as a sad person after the interviewer asked him about former President Suharto during an interview with a state Indonesian television prior to his stunning election victory in May 2018. Perhaps, he was thinking about the fate that his former peer Suharto at the hands of greedy capitalists, which again Malaysia had been played by the such of Goldman Sachs and other bankers or consultants. Only time will tell whether Malaysia and Indonesia can rise again through these difficult times and challenges.

The key word is “emotional intelligence” where one should not be too sentimental with what the majority wants, but try to understand what that The Reality wants?